We look at the history of the Winter Olympic Games, the reasons why they can be under-appreciated and Britain's medal hopes in Sochi....

Winter wonderland

By Sam Drury - Follow on Twitter

Last Updated: 06/02/2014, 12:03 GMT

The Winter Olympics are often under-appreciated. While the summer Games are known as the 'greatest show on Earth', their winter counterpart rarely receives such acclaim. They are very much the Europa League to the UEFA Champions League.

Since then women's skeleton has proved to be something of a surprise national speciality, with Alex Coomber taking bronze in 2002, Shelley Rudman picking up silver in 2006 and then Amy Williams winning gold four years ago. There is hope of skeleton medal in Sochi as well, with world champion Rudman and World Cup champion Lizzy Yarnold amongst the favourites for the women's competition. The curlers, both men and women, are also high on the list of British medal hopes, as both are ranked in the world's top three. Another genuine medal prospect is short-track speed skater Elise Christie. The 23-year-old Scot recently retained her 1000m European title and finished last season as the overall 1000m World Cup champion. Short-track only came into the Games in 1992 and to date Britain have secured just one medal, the 500m bronze, delivered by current head coach Nicky Gooch back in 1994 in Lillehammer. However, with Christie competing in all three distances - the 500m, 1000m and 1500m - and being ranked in the world's top 10 in each of them, the chances of adding to Gooch's medal are undoubtedly improved. The sport is renowned for its unpredictable and physical nature, though, and coming up against nations with entire relay teams available to them, the Sky Academy Sports Scholar could well find herself targeted. The South Koreans are far and away the most successful short-track team in Winter Olympic history with 37 medals, 19 of them gold, and could provide Christie with her toughest competition, especially with China's Olympic champion Wang Meng missing Sochi with an ankle injury. What is clear is that Britain head into these Games knowing that they could realistically record their best medal haul since the Winter Olympics' inception. The perceived lack of British success at previous winter Games is no doubt a major reason for the lack of enthusiasm in some quarters when they come around. Of course, every nation will be keen to see their athletes return with medals round their necks, but the world class sport, excitement and entertainment on show in Sochi is the reason sports fans should revel at the prospect of the Winter Olympic Games, regardless of their country's success. The good news for British fans is that for the first time in many a year they may have their fair share of both.