A “tranquilised badger” was what Andrew Musgrave compared his performance at the Sochi Olympics to.

Four years on though, Britain’s top cross-country skier is a much improved athlete and the lessons he learnt from those Olympic Games four years ago have enabled him to improve and progress to such an extent that he goes into the 2018 Winter Olympics, which kick-off in Pyeongchang on Friday, as a real medal prospect.

This is despite the fact that Musgrave comes from a nation in which cross-country skiing is virtually unheard of while he is up against athletes from countries which consider it one of their national sports. But the 27 year-old from Oyne in Aberdeenshire has not let being the underdog affect him in the past, so why should it begin to now?

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Four years ago, Musgrave burst into the public’s consciousness by winning the prestigious Norwegian Championships, defeating the very best in the world in the process. Off the back of that victory, he went into the Sochi Olympics with his expectations raised but it was not to be, ultimately finishing in 29th position of the cross-country sprint.

It was not the result he had been hoping for but perversely, that Olympic disappointment has done him considerable good in the long-run. “I really learnt a lot from Sochi,” he said. “I was in amazing form just a few weeks before the Games and my expectations going into the Olympics were, I think, maybe a little bit high because of that.

“I’d won the Norwegian Championships and beaten all of these guys who were Olympic favourites and to be honest, that wasn’t the level I was at – I’d completely outperformed at the Norwegian Championships and the odds of me doing that twice in the one season weren’t very high.

“I messed up and ended up being in my best form three weeks too early. Post-Sochi, I sat down with my coaches and discussed what went wrong and how to make sure that didn’t happen again and I feel like since then, I’ve nailed down a lot better exactly what I need to do.

“Ask me again in a few weeks time if what happened in Sochi was a good thing but judging by the past couple of World Championships, it absolutely has been a good thing because it’s forced me to really think about what I was doing and that’s benefitted me a lot.”

The past year has been the best of Musgrave’s career. A fourth place at the 2017 World Championships was then followed up by a third place in the 15km freestyle event at the World Cup in Toblach, Italy - the best result of his career so far. Those performances have filled the Scot with confidence and he goes into the Pyeongchang Games with the belief that he could do something very special. And he is not shy to admit that a podium spot is something that he enters his head.

“I’m feeling confident – in the run-up to the Games, training has been going really well and so I’m looking forward to getting going,” the Norway-based skier said.

“The goal is to get a medal. I’m going to have to have a really good day to do that but I’ve been on the podium this season at the World Cup so things have been going well. Being a Brit, with winter sports not getting as much coverage in the UK, this is our time to shine so we have to take advantage of it. I definitely think about getting on the podium – it’s really hard not to. The most important thing is to focus on the training you’re doing and the smaller goals you set yourself but at the end of the day, the reason you’re going to the Olympics is to try and win and so you can’t not think about that – and anyone who says they haven’t thought about that is definitely lying.”

Cross-country skiing is one of, if not the single toughest sport on the planet. Pushing yourself to your limit is a prerequisite and while Musgrave admits going to your max day in, day out is not wholly enjoyable, it is a skill he is naturally very, very good at.

“Racing is a combination of being able to push yourself incredibly hard but also being physiologically as good as or better than the other guys,” he explains. “But when you get to the very top level, all the guys are so close in standard and so that’s when the mental aspect comes into play. All the guys at the top are mentally very strong because you just have to be.

“You feel such intense pain but then when you cross the finish line, you know you can lie down. I’m not sure I like pushing myself to my limit but I like having done it.”

The 59-strong GB team in Pyeongchang has been set its highest-ever medal target of 5 medals and there is little doubt that Musgrave could contribute to that. That pressure from others to perform is not, though, something that bothers him and he remains entirely focused on himself and his own personal expectations.

“The extra pressure from outsiders doesn’t make a difference to me to be honest – the biggest pressure I feel is the pressure I put on myself,” he said. “I’m going in thinking that I should be able to be in the hunt for a medal so if I don’t do well in these Games, I’ll be a lot more disappointed than last time, that’s for sure. I’m putting more pressure on myself but I don’t think you can get to the top in sport if you don’t do that.”