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Yarnold saves her best until last to defend women’s skeleton title

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Great Britain’s Lizzy Yarnold broke the track record in the final heat at the Alpensia Sliding Centre at PyeongChang 2018 on Saturday 17 February, and in doing so won a second consecutive women’s skeleton gold.

Yarnold became the first British athlete to defend an Olympic Winter Games title, as well as the most decorated British winter Olympian, with her victory. Her time of 51.46 seconds in the fourth heat broke the track record by two tenths of a second and was enough to apply substantial pressure on Austria’s Janine Flock. The 28-year-old Flock had led by just two-hundredths of a second after the third heat and was last to race, but eventually finished fourth.

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Germany’s Jacqueline Loelling finished second, 0.45 seconds behind Yarnold. The bronze medal was won by fellow Brit Laura Deas. It is the first time Britain have won three medals in one day at an Olympic Winter Games, after Izzy Atkin claimed a ski slopestyle bronze earlier in the day.

British women have now medalled at every skeleton event since the sport was reintroduced to the Winter Games in 2002. The British men won their first in the sport via Dom Parsons on Thursday 15 February.

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Peaking at the right time

With Yarnold winning gold and Deas bronze, it is the first time since 1908 that Great Britain has won two Winter Games medals in one winter sport in one event, and Yarnold admitted that she had had a premonition about the duo finishing on the podium.

"I dreamed a couple of nights ago that we were on the podium," she said. "I didn't tell Laura until just after as I didn't want to jinx it. She is one of my fiercest rivals. She is a great push athlete and I have to work hard to try and beat her, but she is also one of my greatest friends so I'm lucky to share this moment with her."

Yarnold had endured a frustrating season in the build-up to PyeongChang 2018, but she said that the inconsistency had acted as good motivation. "I know the pain of not performing at my best and I didn't want that to happen again," she said.

"In sport you never know what's going to happen and I have had a real roller coaster world cup season and that has taught me a lot of harsh lessons that things can go wrong. But sport is about believing in yourself and knowing that the Winter Games are in February and not in December when I was falling off my sled and coming 23rd."

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Podium joy

Both Loelling and Deas revealed their joy at finishing the competition with a medal. "I am happy with the silver medal," said Leolling. "A medal was my goal. The first round was not so good, on exit nine I lost a lot of time there, but I made it in the second round today."

"I knew I had put down a good fourth round run but didn't think I had done enough," admitted 29-year-old Deas. "It was a bit of a roller coaster, I didn't think I had done it, then Janine (Flock) made that mistake early on and I thought there was a gap, but I didn't want to believe it. Until the number came up, I didn't think it was possible and it still hasn't sunk in."

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