CALLUM Smith had Commonwealth champion swimmer Hannah Miley putting him through his paces ahead of his Winter Olympic debut in Sochi today.

The Huntly Nordic Ski Club member is aiming for a top-50 finish in the 30km cross-country skiathlon.

"Hannah has been helping me with a bit of strength training, but I'm not much of a swimmer," Smith said. "It's my first Olympics and I'm only 21, so I've got to be realistic about my expectations. I would be over the moon to make the top 50 because I'm so new to the sport and people take time to develop."

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Smith is taking inspiration from team-mate and fellow Scot Andrew Musgrave, 23. He finished 51st, 55th and 58th in his three events in Vancouver four years ago, but hit the headlines last month when he beat the best of Norway to win their national sprint title.

Like Musgrave, Smith is a product of the Huntly club's youth system under coach Roy Young. "Roy is great at getting young skiers involved and is so enthusiastic about the sport," Smith said. "I went to an open day when I was eight and haven't looked back.

"We're a small nation, but we're getting more competitive and our financial support is better now. Andrew's results have made a big difference. You get much more respect when you turn up in British kit now because of what he's done."

While Smith and Great Britain team-mates Aimee Fuller and Jenny Jones all make their living on snow, their disciplines in Sochi are beyond comparison.

Few sports are as physically demanding as cross-country skiing, where the best athletes boast anaerobic thresholds that would make Chris Froome wince. In contrast snowboarders Fuller and Jones, who compete in the women's slopestyle semi-finals, raise their heart rates through pure adrenaline.

Jones, 33, is a double X Games champion while Fuller, 11 years her junior, is considered a rising star with a big future. Fuller, who performed cartwheels when she recently took ownership of a Blue Peter badge also couldn't be more different from American alpine skier Bode Miller, who famously flicked a V-sign at reporters during the Turin Olympics when he didn't like their questions.

Whatever happens, his efforts in today's men's downhill will be worth a watch, following his no-holding-back assessment of the course at Rosa Khutor. "If you are not totally focused and paying attention, this course can kill you," he said.

"It's very treacherous. It's aggressive and it's very, very fast. It is a real course. The whole middle you can see the glare ice reflection, but I just said, 'bring it'."

From fitness obsessed Nordic skiers to thrill-seeking snowboarders and bad boy downhillers, this is the Olympic Games of many, many contrasts.

James Toney

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