sport

Hand confident of qualifying

GB coach Tony Hand is confident his side can keep their Winter Olympics dream alive with victory in the pre-qualifiers in Japan this weekend.

Britain, Olympic champions in 1936 and bronze medallists in 1924, have not qualified for the tournament since 1948 but they have made huge progress in recent times.

They claimed a silver medal in the World Championships in Poland in 2009 - their first for eight years when they also came second in Slovenia.

GB face Korea tomorrow before taking on Romania and then hosts Japan in the four-team competition in Nikko. The group winners will go through to the final Olympic qualification in February 2013.

Hand said: "I think we can do well at this Olympic pre-qualifier tournament. I think we have a strong team.

"Everyone is in a positive frame of mind and the mood in the camp is excellent. They can't wait to get onto the ice for action."

The group winners will go through to final qualifying in Germany in February next year ahead of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games but Hand is not looking that far ahead.

He added: "I know people like to look ahead but I have got this weekend to worry about first.

"It would be great for us, as a nation, to have that chance to qualify for the Olympics by going to Germany next year. My main focus, though, is on the tournament in Japan."

Guildford Flames forward David Longstaff will win his 100th cap in the second match against Romania, having began his international career in 1994.

The 38-year-old, who is the oldest player in the squad, said: "It will be a special moment for me. I am very proud to have represented GB throughout my career and to be closing in on 100 is pretty amazing.

"I have many great memories from my 18 years on the national team and I want a few more yet before I retire.

"This road to the Olympics is one of the most special. A win in Japan would put us one step away from the Winter Olympics in Sochi. We are confident we can do well and everyone is excited at the prospect at reaching the next stage and being within touching distance of the Olympics."