With just under 50 days to go until the Winter Olympics in Beijing, Team GB’s cross-country skier Andrew Musgrave knows he must maximise every single one - including Christmas Day, writes Josh Graham.

The 31-year-old Scot will travel to China for his fourth Games next year full of confidence that his previous experience will stand him in good stead, but he is leaving nothing to chance and will refrain from overindulging during the festive season.  

With next year’s competition taking place at altitude, Musgrave, usually based in Norway, has set up camp in Engadin in the Swiss Alps and will be leaving no stone unturned, even on December 25th. 

“I will be training hard on Christmas Day, my girlfriend is also a ski racer, so she’s coming down to join me, so it will be quite nice,” said Musgrave, one of over 1,000 athletes who are able to train full-time, access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support thanks to vital National Lottery funding. 

“What we are eating remains to be seen, we will make ourselves something, but I don’t think we will need a whole turkey for the two of us!” 

Two days after Christmas, Musgrave will be tackling the Tour de Ski, his last competition before Beijing, where he hopes to gain confidence from some valuable racing and high-quality training. 

He said: “I’m not in top form as of yet but the plan is to be in top form in February, so the Tour de Ski is a really good building block for the Games. 

“I’ve been counting down the days for a long time [to Beijing], so every day is a new landmark for me! I feel like things are going as planned.” 

With Covid-19 still firmly gripping the world, Musgrave – whose seventh in the skiathlon in 2018 is his best result at a Games - will not have any familiar faces out in China to cheer him on. 

“My family headed out to previous Games but you don’t really get to see people much outside the Olympic bubble anyway, so it’s not going to be a massive difference,” he said. 

“But it is always nice to see people you know in the stands; you hear them as you go past and it does give you that wee motivation boost. I’ll manage to cope without, I think, but it would be nice to have them there.” 

However, Musgrave is still relying on his family for support from afar and even enlisted the help of his mum to carry out a festive food mission earlier this month. 

“I’m not such a Christmas person but I do like a bit of Christmas food. A few mince pies - you can never go wrong with them,” explained Musgrave, who is bidding to add to the 1,000-plus medals achieved by British athletes since the advent of National Lottery funding to elite sport in 1997. 

“My parents were out watching the last World Cup race we did in Norway at the start of December and I made my mum bring me out a supply of them.” 

Musgrave has recovered from a terrible injury after he tore his pec with the tendon ripping off the bone and leaving him requiring surgery in the spring. 

But after an off-season full of rehab, he is now back to full fitness and bullish about his chances of bringing home a medal in the New Year at altitude. 

Musgrave said: “I’m the sort of person where I feel like I’ve never been injured and I’m rarely ill but the last few years, I’ve done my Achilles, my pec and had shingles. But in general, things have been going pretty well. 

“I have got a lot better over the years at racing at altitude - I used to struggle but now I feel it’s almost a strength. 

“Some people are super lucky and just genetically are very good at altitude, but there’s big variations as some struggle. Some people are a little bit like me where they learn how to deal with it over time. 

“I think now, it’s almost a positive for me. I’m not the fastest in a finishing sprint so if there’s a big group of guys, I might struggle coming into the finish.  

“Altitude tends to thin out the field a lot more and makes the race spread out which is an advantage for me.” 

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