British winter sports legend
In claiming skeleton gold at Vancouver 2010, Amy Williams became the first British athlete to win an individual title at the Olympic Winter Games in 30 years.
Humble beginnings Amy Williams was 19 when she first became acquainted with skeleton. A student in Bath in the south west of England and a keen 400m runner, she was invited to try out her sliding skills at the university’s new bobsleigh, luge and skeleton training facilities. That was during the summer of 2002, the year in which skeleton made its return to the Olympic programme at Salt Lake City, having previously featured just twice, in 1928 and 1948. Explaining her motivations for taking up the sport, she said: “I wanted to represent my country in an Olympic event and I had no hesitation in taking part in the British skeleton development programme and getting to grips with the art of sledding.”
A test too soon Making fast progress in a sport that involves lying on a small sled and hurtling head first down a frozen track at speeds in excess of 140 km/h, an experience she described as both “exhilarating and terrifying”, Williams excelled in her first competitive outings, finishing second in both the World Student Games and World Junior Championships in 2005. She failed to qualify, however, for the Winter Games in Turin the following year, when her compatriot Shelley Rudman took the silver medal.
A golden moment in Vancouver “I spent the four years leading up to the 2010 Vancouver Games totally focused on the objective of earning the right to go there and represent my country,” she said of her next career goal. She did more than that, however, securing the gold medal over two memorable February days at the Whistler Sliding Centre, setting new track records in her first and third runs to comfortably beat German duo Kertsin Szymkoviak and Anja Huber to the Olympic title. In doing so Williams became Great Britain’s first individual gold medallist at the Winter Games since Robin Cousins triumphed in the men’s figure skating at Lake Placid in 1980, and the female since Jeannette Altwegg, who won figure-skating gold at Oslo in 1952.
Life after gold A year before her Vancouver triumph, Williams won silver at the 2009 World Championships. Awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, she has made a number of television appearances and is a British Olympic Association Ambassador, attending the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games in that capacity. On 22 May 2012, in the countdown to the London Olympics, she carried the Olympic torch through the town of Yeovil in Somerset. She announced her retirement that same month, and said she would continue to serve sport and the Olympic Movement under the slogan of the London Games: “Inspire a generation”.