Skeleton: Speed merchants Yarnold and Tretiakov claim gold
The Sanki Sliding Centre saw new course records set in both the women’s and men’s events, as Lizzie Yarnold (GBR) and home favourite Alexander Tretiakov (RUS) produced high-octane performances to win the skeleton titles at Sochi 2014
13-14 February 2014: Yarnold maintains British gold standard
Lizzy Yarnold (GBR) justified her favourite’s tag in the women’s skeleton, twice breaking the Sanki Sliding Centre course record on her way to gold. In the first heat, the 25-year-old Briton laid down an early marker, setting a new track record with a time of 58.43 seconds.
The 2013-2014 World Cup winner clocked a combined time from her first two runs of 1 minute 56.89 seconds to give her a 0.44 second lead over 2007 world champion Noelle Pikus-Pace (USA) going into the second day of competition. 2013 European champion Elena Nikitina (RUS), second after the first run, finished the day in third, 0.11 seconds behind Pikus-Pace, after a nervy second run.
Yarnold maintained her consistency in the third and fourth rounds to clock a combined time of 3 minute 52.89 seconds. She finished a full 0.97 seconds ahead of second-placed Pikus-Pace. In her third heat, Yarnold shaved more than half a second off the course record she had set the previous day, clocking 57.91 seconds.
Nikitina claimed bronze with a combined time of 3 minutes 54.30 seconds.
Over the first three runs, Yarnold had built up such a cushion that she went into the final run knowing that only a bad mistake would cost her the title. “The fourth run I was totally relaxed and went out and enjoyed it,” said the British champion. “It was a bit of a messy run but I'm thrilled to get here after working so hard for the past five years, which makes it all worth it.”
Yarnold had her family looking on to witness her finest moment on the track, capping what was a truly memorable 14 February for the Briton. “It's also lovely as it's Valentine's Day, so it has something romantic about it as well,” she enthused.
14-15 February 2014: Russian Rocket soars to gold
The 2013 world champion and home favourite Alexander Tretiakov saw off a fierce challenge from Martin Dukurs (LAT) to win gold in the men’s competition. The man known as ‘the Russian Rocket’ set a new track record of 55.95 seconds on his first run, and by the end two sessions he led the Latvian two-time world champion by 0.56 seconds, with John Daly (USA) in third.
The 28-year-old Russian failed to match Dukurs’ speed in the third run, meaning the gap between the two was reduced to just 0.02 seconds. It made for a dramatic finale, however Tretiakov, who had won bronze at Vancouver 2010, rediscovered his mojo in the final run to extend his advantage over the Latvian rival once again, finishing with a combined time of 3 minutes 44.29 seconds. That placed him 0.81 seconds ahead of Dukurs.
“I felt huge happiness after crossing the finishing line in the fourth run,” said an ecstatic Tretiakov. “It means my cycle of training wasn't in vain. My victory is the result of a lot of training and hard work. All the emotion suddenly came out at the end and I felt lightness and joy,” he added. “This is a very important medal, and I'm happy to win it for my country.”
The battle for bronze was fought out by Daly and his US team-mate Matthew Antoine. Antoine, who lay fourth after the opening day, leapfrogged his compatriot to join Tretiakov and Dukurs on the podium with a time of 3 minute 447.26 seconds. “I had a pretty good feeling in the last run but you never really know until you see the clock,” explained a thrilled Antoine. “Once I saw it, it was pure celebration. This is definitely the best moment of my life.”