EMILY SARSFIELD has experienced the tough times of being a British competitor in a winter sport. For almost two decades, the Durham ski cross star has ploughed a lone furrow in her chosen pursuit, combining top-level competition with a host of different jobs in an attempt to pay her way.

She has taken day-long car drives to save on having to pay for a hotel. She has borrowed equipment and technical help from rival national teams in order to be able to compete on the World Cup circuit. She has swept chalets in the morning before taking on the best in the world over a series of heart-stopping bumps, jumps and moguls in the afternoon.

Finally, though, she has arrived at a place where competing as a British skier no longer means being a figure of fun. Less Eddie the Eagle, more Emily the Olympian.

At the end of this month, Sarsfield should be named on the British squad for the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. On a personal level, an Olympic appearance would complete a remarkable odyssey that has seen Brancepeth-raised Sarsfield suffer the intense disappointment of missing out on the last two Winter Games because of a combination of serious injury and administrative intransigence on the part of her governing body.

And from a wider perspective, Sarsfield’s appearance in South Korea would provide further confirmation of Britain’s growing emergence as a winter sport power. If selected, Sarsfield will become the first British female to compete in an Olympic ski cross event, but that is unlikely to be the only record broken by the British team at next month’s Games.

The British squad that travels to Pyeongchang will be the biggest ever selected for a Winter Olympics, and on current rankings, the team is set to comfortably surpass the record medal haul of four that was set in 1924 and 2014. From Dave Riding and his alpine skiing exploits to Katie Ormerod and her snowboard heroics, this is a group of Britons primed for the podium.

“It’s just a massively exciting thing to be part of,” said Sarsfield, who was speaking from the French resort of Meribel, where she has been based for Christmas and New Year. “People are saying this is going to be the strongest squad Britain has ever sent to a Winter Olympics, and you only have to look at the results across a range of sports over the last couple of months to see why that’s right.

“Winter sports have been growing for a while now. The last Games played a big part in that, with Jenny (Jones) becoming the first Briton to win a medal on snow and the skeleton girls continuing their dominance at the top of the world, and I think that inspired a lot of people.

“You’ve seen a massive growth in the number of kids wanting to take up winter sports, and they’re now coming into something where everything is in place for them to become world-class talents.

“The whole winter sport scene is so much more professional now. In the past, I pretty much had to do everything for myself, but now I’ve got a federation that are there to support and help me. I’ve been a full-time athlete for the last six months, and that’s been amazing. It’s great that the kids who are coming through today will see that as the norm.”