Britain’s latest skeleton queen
Since the re-introduction of skeleton to the Winter Games in 2002 British athletes have been a fixture on the podium in the women’s competition. At Sochi 2014 Lizzy Yarnold was imperious as she maintained this proud tradition.
Following in golden footsteps
Following in the footsteps of her former team-mate and landlady Amy Williams, Lizzy Yarnold dominated the women’s Olympic skeleton competition on the Sanki sliding track at Sochi 2014, to maintain Team GB’s run of success in the event. She had been clear favourite going into the Winter Games, having dominated the FIBT World Cup that season and winning the overall World Cup. And in Sochi, the 26-year-old from Kent accumulated a huge lead over the four runs to beat her American rival Noelle Pikus-Pace by a huge margin of 0.97 seconds.
She twice broke the course record, lowering it to 58.43 on her first run and then to 57.91 on her third. “For my fourth run I was completely relaxed. I just set off and enjoyed it. It was a bit messy but I’m so happy to be here after having worked so hard for the last five years! It was worth it! It’s lovely it’s Valentine’s Day, there’s lots of romance in the air…” she said right after.
Inspired by Lewis
Lizzy Yarnold is a product of the successful British skeleton programme which has placed an athlete on the podium at every Olympics since it returned to the Olympic programme in 2002. She was inspired to become an Olympian after watching Denise Lewis win the heptathlon at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000. In 2008, aged 19, she took up skeleton after a talent identification programme for girls. Renting lodgings in Bath from 2010 Olympic champion Amy Williams, who retired in January 2012, Lizzy learned from the best.
Fast track to success
There is no sliding track in the UK so as Yarnold explained, “We can’t train on the ice for 8 months out of the year. Once we get to a track we get six training runs and that’s it. It’s different than for other competitors who have tracks in their country and can use them hundreds of times. But it’s an advantage for us Brits because we learn quickly, we know what we’re doing and we have a big strong team.” What’s more, “The most important thing is to have fun in your sport and enjoy it. I’m so lucky to be able to do this every day. Being happy and having fun is what gets me results. I don’t put any pressure on myself, I know I can succeed and I always try my hardest.”
Flying the flag for Team GB
It was no surprise to see Yarnold selected as the Team GB flag bearer on 23rd February 2014 at the Sochi 2014 Closing Ceremony. Looking ahead, the British athlete has stated her desire to become the spokeswoman for winter sports in her country in the years to come. Her success at the Sanki Sliding Centre and the way she has embraced the spirit of the Games by sharing her experience and her emotions is sure to help inspire a new generation of Britons to try skeleton and other winter sports.