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Category: Winter Olympics 2014: skeleton

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Skeleton: how to hurtle down an ice-track on a ‘tea tray’ – Winter Olympics video

Skeleton is a winter sport in which competitors hurl themselves head-first down an ice track on a sled resembling a tea tray and back in the news again thanks to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. Before the 2014 Games, Barry Glendenning visited the U…

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Team GB make their return after most fruitful Winter Games since 1924 | James Riach

Four medals from Sochi 2014 represented progress for Team GB, although there was disappointment that one or two more bits of precious metal might have been left out there

Lizzy Yarnold was the first athlete to emerge into the Heathrow arrivals lounge on Monday night, with a beaming smile that shone as brightly as her gold medal. As Britain’s Olympians touched down at London Heathrow after three long weeks in Sochi, the 200-strong crowd cheered and waved their flags, saluting the return of Great Britain’s finest Winter Games team since the 1920s.

Yarnold was followed by her fellow medallists Jenny Jones and the women’s and men’s curlers. Family members, friends and other onlookers waited expectantly to greet them, and although this was no ticker-tape parade, the reception was still befitting of their significant achievements. “It’s a fantastic moment for us to come back here. I want to pay tribute to the athletes for making it happen,” said Mike Hay, the Team GB chef de mission. “They were well-prepared and performed wonderfully well under tough conditions.

“Jenny Jones started the ball rolling, Lizzy was dominant in winning the [skeleton] gold and then to have two medals for curling was a thrilling moment. The athletes around me have done Great Britain proud.”

UK Sport has said it will increase funding for winter events after Great Britain’s four medals, the best since the 1924 Games in France. The future was also discussed briefly, with Hay targeting increased success in Pyeonchang in four years’ time, but reflection on the athletes’ achievements in Russia was the dominant narrative.

Jones was the first to win a medal on the Sochi snow and although there were near misses for the men’s bobsleigh and heartbreak for Elise Christie on the ice, Britain continued to flourish.

Yarnold was the undoubted star, securing gold in dominant fashion in the skeleton before the heroics of David Murdoch, whose “stone of destiny” earned the men’s curlers a surprise place in the final, where they won silver, before Eve Muirhead and co won bronze.

Yarnold, who then represented Britain as the flag-bearer in the closing ceremony, admitted she had been inspired by the heptathlete Denise Lewis as a child, watching her win gold at the summer Games in 2000. “It’s hard to explain where it all began,” she said. “I was introduced to the Olympics watching Denise Lewis and so many athletes who did GB proud. I was desperate to go to the Olympics.”

Asked about her role in the closing ceremony on Sunday, Yarnold claimed carrying the flag was more of a challenge than hurtling down an icy track at 80mph. “It was the most frightening experience of the past two weeks,” she said. “I didn’t get any flag-waving practice unfortunately. I was so nervous, it was so nerve-racking. Everything that was left [to do] was out of my control. I can’t really believe that it went so, so well. I was crying before I even went out into the stadium. I felt there was more pressure than my competition. It was so meaningful.”

Jones, who began GB’s campaign with a bronze in the first week, said: “In December I got really bad concussion and didn’t expect to even get to the Olympics. It was great to showcase snowboarding and slopestyle to the world. And I got a medal.”

As Britain’s medal-winners were presented together for the first time since returning, they were asked about the future of Team GB itself, given the high number of Scottish athletes who would potentially be split from the organisation should their country secure independence from the UK this year.

The International Olympic Committee has already indicated that Scotland would most likely not encounter any problems should it seek to enter future competitions as a separate country.

Muirhead was unequivocal in her response: “We represent Scotland at world championships. But when you get the chance to represent Team GB it’s extra special. It’s great when you step on the ice to be Team GB, not just team Scotland.”

On her bronze-medal achievement, she added: “I was gutted after Vancouver [2010], but I put together a new team and knew these girls would give 110%. We knew we were one of the favourites but we stayed relaxed.”

On independence Murdoch, the men’s skip and also a Scot, said: “Scotland will decide. We’ve enjoyed the whole experience being part of Team GB.”

Hay added: “I’m aware of the argument that is going on. We’re a sports organisation and we’ll let the politics take care of themselves. We’re proud to represent Great Britain and we’re delighted with the bonding.”

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Sochi 2014: Bobsleigh four fall short but Team GB are on the rise

John Jackson’s GBR1 team could not quite manage the medal that would have given Team GB a record haul but this has been a successful Games

John Jackson was only a tenth of a second from leading his bobsleigh crew to a result on the final day of the Games that would have taken Team GB past their best Winter Olympics medal haul.

Jackson, who battled back from a serious achilles injury seven months ago in record time to pilot the four-man crew to fifth place, was able to see the positives afterwards despite missing out on a medal by 0.11sec.

A bronze for GBR1 would have meant five medals for Team GB, surpassing the four in Chamonix in 1924. As it was, a skeleton gold for Lizzy Yarnold, silver for David Murdoch’s curlers, bronze for Jenny Jones in the snowboard slopestyle and a bronze for Eve Muirhead’s female curling rink exactly matched that tally and led officials to declare the Games a success.

At a Sanki Sliding Centre draped in Russian flags to celebrate gold for Alexander Zubkov’s crew, Jackson’s men and their sled George (“four man”) narrowly failed to make up the gap on the medallists.

Zubkov, whose eclectic CV includes stints as a taxi driver and Russia’s sports minister, had earlier won the two-man bobsleigh. Jackson’s crew – Joel Fearon, Bruce Tasker and Stuart Benson – had been on the back foot ever since their first run on Saturday night.

Starting 12th in worsening conditions, their start position decided by their world ranking, they finished it in 10th. In their three remaining runs they posted the second, fifth and second fastest times.

“We’re close. I don’t think we’re disappointed. We’ve put in a good result. We started consistently and today we upped it,” said Jackson, who added that he planned to hand over to a new GBR1 pilot halfway through the next cycle and does not expect to be in Pyeongchang in 2018. “Maybe being 12th on the start order on the first run hindered us a bit but it hindered everyone who was starting later on in the pack. I think we’ve done Great Britain proud.”

It helped banish memories of a disastrous Games in Vancouver, when two of the four bobsleigh crews crashed and Jackson could finish only 17th. He said that with another three months rehabilitation his achilles, which has still been inflamed and painful in the run-up to the Games, would have allowed him to run faster.

“But our starts have been up there with the best three or four in the world, so we’re not going to get much quicker, even with me being fully fit,” he said.

The four-man team had hoped to create their own piece of history, with British Bobsleigh naming the project aimed at securing a medal “Project 50” because it is five decades since Tony Nash and Robin Dixon won Britain’s only medal in the sport, a gold, in Innsbruck.

It was not to be but the performance director, Gary Anderson, said afterwards that they had proved bobsleigh was worth investing in, as he targeted a medal in Pyeongchang.

The women’s bobsleigh team were the only ones not to hit the target prescribed for them by UK Sport, which funded six sports to the tune of £14.5m from National Lottery and exchequer funds. With an overall target of three to seven medals also achieved, there was a sense of satisfaction across the British team as they prepared to march behind the flagbearer Yarnold at the closing ceremony.

It could have been even better had Jackson’s crew not left themselves so much ground to make up following their first run or if Elise Christie had notsuffered her unwelcome hat-trick of disqualifications in the short-track speed skating.

But with 14 top-10 finishes, Team GB’s chef de mission, Mike Hay, believes that his 56 athletes had shown there is growing strength in depth, with more of them competing at the right end of the leaderboard. While still far from challenging the traditional winter sport countries, the introduction of new freestyle skiing and snowboarding events has also opened up new medal possibilities.

Hay said that a new permanent training base, perhaps in Colorado, was a possibility for the snowboard and freestyle skiing squads. Overall the ski and snowboard teams had 11 top-20 finishes, their best ever result.

The effects of the attention-grabbing successes of Jones, Jamie Nicholls, Zoe Gillings and company also had knock-on effects far beyond this coastal resort on the Black Sea.

On the Sunday that Jones won Britain’s first ever medal on snow, the Chill Factore indoor ski centre in Manchester ran out of snowboards because of demand and was packed to bursting. The “grom camps” in Switzerland run by the head coach Pat Sharples for young freestyle skiers, on which Rowan Cheshire first tried halfpipe skiing, have had 5,000 inquiries since the Games began.

Both the British Olympic Association chairman, Lord Coe, and Hay said it is important not to get carried away but, in banishing memories of British embarrassment, this squad of young athletes may have helped deliver a shift in the way the public views winter sport.

“This is a really good start down the path but it is only a start. This has been a good Team GB performance but I think there is more to come,” said Coe of a fortnight that left Britain 19th in the medal table.

“Having seen it from home as well as being here, people are being inspired by the performances.”

Hay said he was not losing sight of the fact that Britain had won “four medals, not 24” but said it was important to return home with some precious metal. “The benchmark on top-level sports is Olympic medals. I can talk about the top eight finishes, top 50%-of-the-field finishes we have had,” he said.

“I can pretty much do that across every discipline here. But ultimately winning medals is the benchmark so I am pleased where we are on that medal table.”

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Sochi 2014: GB enters virtuous cycle as Olympic funding pays off

Team GB’s record Winter Olympics medal success can be just the start with investment set to increase

The bronze medal that snowboarder Jenny Jones wore proudly around her neck a fortnight ago was more than worth its weight in gold to her teammates. The 33-year-old, a virtual veteran in a sport of gnarly jumps and sick stunts that captured the public imagination on the opening weekend of the Games, grabbed the solitary medal on snow that is likely to lead to a big change in funding for the next four-year cycle.

The GB tally, with one day of competition remaining, of four medals – Lizzy Yarnold’s thrilling skeleton gold, a silver for the men’s curling rink, a bronze for Eve Muirhead and her women curlers and that bronze Jones won in the new sport of slopestyle snowboarding – matches that at the first Winter Olympics, in Chamonix in 1924. The nature of the borderline ludicrous $51bn investment in staging these Games, and the seriousness with which teams prepare from them, could not be more different from those early amateur days.

If the men’s four-man bobsleigh team, who have been flying in training, could add another it would become indisputably Britain’s best performance. In doing so, they could also ensure Team GB’s Games did not end on a marginally downbeat note given the hammering taken by David Murdoch’s rink in the men’s curling final and the concluding act of three in speed skater Elise Christie’s cursed Games.

The British Olympic Association’s chairman, Lord Coe, was far from downbeat. “These have been a great Games. If you look at it from the aspect of the athletes, the organisers have done really well and Team GB are having a great time here,” he said. “The potential going forward in some events is extraordinary, particularly those events which draw from cross-disciplinary areas of sporting expertise.”

The medal tally must, however, be put in some context. The Dutch speed skaters, a familiar sight around the Olympic Park on their orange bikes, have won 23 medals. But at least four medals, allied to some encouraging performances from an enthusiastic and likeable young team, have sparked hopes that Sochi could prove a watershed for British winter sport.

Yarnold believes the introduction of new events has also made it easier for a British public whose exposure may be limited to childhood memories of Ski Sunday or Eddie the Eagle to relate to winter athletes. “After London 2012, the magic of the Winter Olympics here in Sochi was the introduction of so many new events. Lots of people go snowboarding or go on skiing holidays,” said the 25-year-old.

The culture clash between the “no compromise”, marginal gains rhetoric of the spreadsheet-toting performance directors and the laissez-faire attitude of the freestyle skiers and snowboarders was one of the more fascinating angles of a Games that sought to integrate new sports without losing its traditional values.

A string of other top-10 finishes for Britain’s so-called “fridge kids” should translate to an increase in funding under UK Sport’s much discussed “no compromise” formula and has already had the phones in indoor snow centres ringing off the hook with aspiring young snowboarders and freestyle skiers.

The success of Alex Coomber in winning skeleton bronze in Salt Lake City in 2002 set the tone for a lineage of success that ran through Shelley Rudman in 2006, Amy Williams in 2010 – and was continued with such focused aplomb by Yarnold in 2014.

Likewise, there are hopes that promising performances by a young cadre of snowboarders and freestyle skiers who learned their trade on dry slopes and in snow domes can spark a run of success.

Team GB’s chef de mission, Mike Hay, in overall charge of the 56 athletes, immediately began planning for a permanent training camp. “We have more strength in depth across more disciplines here than ever before and there is the chance to grow on that,” he said. “I think there is a huge amount of potential in the newer sports such as snowboarding and freestyle skiing where we could put a programme together somewhere such as Lake Placid.”

The Vancouver cycle brought a serious increase in the investment in winter sport through the National Lottery and exchequer funding, and the Sochi cycle saw it double again to £14m. All sports that receive public money have hit their targets, albeit narrowly in the cases of speed skating and figure skating. UK Sport ruthlessly allocates its investment based on medal chances at the next two Games, and the fervent hope among the army of 70-plus Team GB officials and coaches here was that winter sport in Britain could be at a tipping point.

In an inevitably more modest way, given the challenges of climate and geography, the hope is that success will beget success in the same way as the virtuous circle that has powered the summer Olympians from 36th in the medal table in Atlanta to third in London. “We have proved in skeleton you don’t need to live next to a bobsleigh track to be the best in the world. It is possible, and we need to start believing that with the right people, coaching and funding we can win medals in the sports we haven’t traditionally done before,” said Hay.

According to UK Sport’s performance director, Simon Timson, the aim in winter sport must be to ensure a range of genuine medal opportunities across several sports rather than just relying on three or four exceptional athletes.

“Five countries win more than 50% of the medals. I’m not about to get carried away. But it’s a good platform to move on from. We can achieve even more in Pyeongchang,” Hay said. “It’s about getting some credibility on all levels and I believe that has definitely happened.”

Also notable was the extent to which the British team spoke about their camaraderie – on the last night in the Iceberg Skating Palace they turned up en masse and screamed themselves hoarse in support of Christie. “We were totally behind her and totally feeling for her. Elise has had a difficult time this Olympics but we’ve also had so much success,” Yarnold said.

“Once we won that first medal, it was very exciting for everyone. We sort of knew what we could achieve. The pride you feel for someone else is astonishing, it gives you that little bit more warmth in your heart that you can go out and do it yourself.”

That “One Team GB” ethos extended to the summer Olympians, leading to platitudes about the inspirational effect of the London Games, but also some touching moments. Muirhead revealed after they won bronze that Katherine Grainger had been in touch overnight to help them recover from the crushing disappointment of losing their semi-final.

Yarnold, who will carry the GB flag at the closing ceremony on Sunday night, was back in Sochi after a flying visit to London to record an appearance on Jonathan Ross. “There is an amazing feeling, it’s unexplainable. We are friends and we’re here together,” she said of her teammates.

Coe and his Team GB officials have also emphasised the extent to which this team feels united. “It’s a really good start down the path, but it’s only a start. This has been a good Team GB performance, but there is more to come,” he said.

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Lizzy Yarnold vows to use Olympic success to inspire girls to play sport

British skeleton gold medallist wants to challenge ‘media image of the perfect woman’ and help close gender gap in participation

Great Britain’s most recent Olympic gold medallist has vowed to use her sudden fame to inspire more girls to play sport and challenge “the media image of the perfect woman”. Lizzy Yarnold, who became just the fifth British athlete to win individual gold at a Winter Olympics when she defeated her skeleton rivals by almost a second on Friday, said she was determined to convince more girls to stay involved with sport.

The 25-year-old said she planned to go into “as many schools as possible”, secondary and primary, to convince children to be active. “It doesn’t have to be skeleton, it could be just at lunchtimes or after school,” she said. “Not worrying about what the media image is of the perfect woman, it’s about being you and being proud and confident about who you are.”

Despite hopes that the heroics of Jessica Ennis-Hill, Katherine Grainger, Nicola Adams and others at London 2012 would help inspire more girls to play more sport, there remains a large gender gap in participation.

Ennis-Hill has also spoken out on the subject of body image, saying it is important that “girls aren’t afraid of sport”.

She recalled after London 2012 that in her early days her coach had to convince her that having muscles wasn’t unfeminine. “He was right, but it’s hard when you’re younger and want to look like everyone else,” she said.

Successful athletes, such as the swimmer Rebecca Adlington and the gymnast Beth Tweddle, have also been targeted by Twitter trolls over their looks.

Nationwide, there are 1.7 million fewer women participating in sport than men. Many drop out of sport at secondary school, with a further decline at the age of 16.

Research by the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation (WSFF) has shown that many girls are starting to drop out of sport at the age of eight. By the time they are 14, only 8% of girls do the recommended one hour of physical activity a day.

The WSFF has consistently argued that more media coverage for women’s sport will give children stronger role models.

“There are so many strong women in sport. I hope we can get more publicity, get in the papers more, get more sport on TV,” said Yarnold, who was a heptathlete before taking up skeleton at the age of 19.

“The cricketers are very strong in Britain, the footballers are great athletes. I intend to go into as many schools as I can, secondary and primary, to tell them to get involved in sport.”

When Yarnold was discovered by a talent search scheme called Girls4Gold, she had never heard of the sport of skeleton. But within three years she had won her first World Cup race and two years later was Olympic champion.

The rower Helen Glover, who won Britain’s first gold of London 2012 in the coxless pairs alongside Heather Stanning, was discovered by an earlier scheme called Sporting Giants.

Yarnold, who has vowed to become the first skeleton slider to defend their Olympic title in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018, said her story showed that some athletes found their best sport late.

“Now I’m Olympic champion, there’s a lot of responsibility that comes with the gold medal. I understand that,” said Yarnold, whose mother, Judith, is a PE teacher.

She said that when she was younger her hero was the heptathlete Denise Lewis and that a visit to her school, Maidstone Grammar in Kent, by the javelin thrower Goldie Sayers also stuck in her memory.

“It was always my aim to go into schools and inspire them and tell them about my career in skeleton and that I found it so late and to say that you can do it. Whether it’s arts or music or sport, you’ve got to follow your dream and dedicate a lot of time to it.”

Yarnold’s gold continues a remarkable run of female success at the Winter Games – Britain’s six most recent medals have all been won by women.

The sports minister, Helen Grant, told a Commons select committee inquiry into women’s sport this month that she wanted to abolish the gender gap in sports participation.

The grassroots funding body Sport England has been charged with getting more women to play sport and boosting the number of 16 to 25-year-olds.

But its latest survey showed that the number of young people playing sport had actually declined since the London Olympics.

A Lords committee that looked into the Olympic legacy last year said last week it was disappointed at the limited progress that had been made in following up its recommendations.

Ruth Holdaway, chief executive of the WSFF, has welcomed the increased focus on boosting female participation but said a range of measures were required.

“For more women to be inspired and get involved in sport and to prevent these worrying dropout rates, we need a concerted effort to invest in grassroots activities that are specifically marketed to women and girls,” she said.

“Women’s sport needs more media coverage and we need better sponsorship opportunities for elite athletes – it’s a whole package.”

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Sochi 2014: Lizzy Yarnold on winning gold for Great Britain – video

Lizzy Yarnold reflects on her gold medal-winning performance at the Women’s skeleton in Sochi

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Lizzy Yarnold already making plans to defend skeleton title in 2018

The morning after the night before Britain’s skeleton golden girl faces the media in Sochi and says there is more to come

The celebrations, the TV appearances, the endless interview requests, the questions about her love life and even catching up on The Archers could wait. The first thing Lizzy Yarnold did after getting in from sliding to Olympic gold was write up her race notes.

And as she faced the press on Saturday morning, pitched into the whirl of media appearances, the effects of sleep deprivation and adrenaline was a reminder of the glazed faces of Team GB athletes at London 2012. She sat with a page of notes in front of her so she could get her message across.

It was a telling insight into the determination and attention to detail that had turned Yarnold into an Olympic champion at 25, only five years after first stepping on a sled and two after taking up the sport of skeleton full time.

“It was a really crazy time after that fourth run. When I came up the outrun and saw the No1 it was a massive relief and so many emotions, seeing mum and dad and the whole family there,” she said. “Waking up this morning the first thing I did was obviously listen to The Archers and then got up and got ready for the day.”

Britain’s Winter Olympic champion had not even felt the weight of the metal around her neck, owing to Sochi’s policy of transporting evening winners down to the “medal plaza” on the coast the following day, but already she was planning to become the first to retain her title.

“No one ever before has defended an Olympic gold in the sport of skeleton so that would be a dream come true for me. I’m still young and so driven,” Yarnold said. “This is a massive achievement me but I think there’s so much more to give.”

The farmer’s daughter from Sevenoaks produced a performance of supreme control to add Olympic gold to her World Cup title under the Friday night lights at the Sanki Sliding Centre. Not once did she appear under pressure. On the contrary, she said, it had been fun. “I’ve been thinking about all four runs, obviously I got a track record in the third run, the fourth run I was just having fun,” said Yarnold, who won by almost a second.

“But there is still so much to improve on. It is an amazing track so I’ve written my track notes and finished all that off.”

When she got back to Team GB’s base in the Rosa Khutor Resort in the mountains high above Sochi after midnight, she snatched a slice of pizza before meeting her cheering entourage.

“We went down and met up with all the team. There’s so many people,” she said. Among them were the performance director Andi Schmid,

Others includedthe ice coach Mark Wood, the strength and conditioning coach Danny Holdcroft, the physio Kay Robinson, the sled engineer Rachel Blackburn and the executives from UK Sport who have sanctioned a £3.5m investment in skeleton over the last four years.

There too was James Roche, the sled designer who – as the nation now knows after she handed him a Valentine’s card immediately after her fourth run – is also her boyfriend.

Between them, they form a similar protective cocoon in Bath to the one created by Dave Brailsford around British Cycling in Manchester. And rather like cycling, skeleton’s period of dominance, with four medals in consecutive Winter Games including two golds in the most recent, is down to a combination of science and simplicity. By obsessively focusing on combining the best athletes with the best technology, then obsessively honing both to the nth degree, they have perfected a winning system.

Certainly when Yarnold was plucked from 1,500 athletes who gathered in Loughborough in 2009 as part of UK Sport’s Girls4Gold talent search to compete in a sport she had never heard of, it was her brain as well as her brawn they were assessing.

“It’s about having the physical attributes but also the mental toughness, the mental strength you need for skeleton,” Yarnold said. “It wasn’t until six months [after I started that] I had my first go on the skeleton sled.”

Williams, now Yarnold’s landlady in Bath and a crucial source of counsel in dealing with the post-gold medal whirlwind, has said that her successor is a different sort of slider – heavier and with more power.

“It’s more about having a real good connection with the sled and the mental game, whether you can learn from your mistakes,” Yarnold said. “There are so many other aspects apart from the physical side in skeleton.”

Yarnold, polite and charming to a fault, nevertheless knew exactly where she wanted to draw the line. No, Roche had not bought her a Valentine’s card in return but he did get her a box of chocolates.

And, no, she would not divulge any further details of their relationship. You suspect that is because, as she insists, she is an athlete, not a celebrity, and not because she has sold their tale to Hello.

On the table in front of her that piece of paper reminded her to pay tribute to her rivals and her coaches, and to inspire children. It concluded: “Future. Career. Lots to learn.”

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Olympic skeleton gold medallist Lizzy Yarnold: ‘I knew I could do it’

Deep house music, knitting, F1 engineering – and a huge dose of mental toughness – help ‘The Yarnold’ to Sochi victory

As her sled, Mervyn, became an 80mph blur under the Friday night lights, Lizzy Yarnold hurtled into the record books to become just the fifth British athlete to win individual gold at the Winter Olympics.

On Valentine’s Day, riding a sled prepared by her watching engineer boyfriend, James Roche, Yarnold claimed victory with a superbly controlled last run of the day and promptly handed him a card after the flower ceremony.

“I have shown the world what I am capable of. I cannot believe I won the race,” she said .

“It is lovely it is Valentine’s Day, there is lots of romance in the air. There are so many people who were part of my journey – I am so chuffed I am Olympic champion.”

It capped an appropriately rapid rise for the 25-year-old farmer’s daughter from Kent in the sport of skeleton, which requires a mix of fearlessness and zen-like calm to career headfirst down an icy track at high speed.

Yarnold’s gold also continued a remarkable streak of success in a sport in which Britain has won a medal every time it has been included in the Winter Olympics.

With a commanding lead going into her fourth and final run Yarnold kept her nerve – despite a wobble near the top of the vertiginous 1,500m course – to seal victory by almost a full second, a huge margin in a sport that often comes down to fractions of a second.

A combined time from her four runs of three minutes 52.89 seconds left her big rival, the American Noelle Pikus-Pace, in second and a surprise Russian contender, Elena Nikitina, with bronze.

A motivational compilation of deep house music, a calming passion for knitting, Formula One engineering, the foresight of a retired insurance underwriter and £3.45m of public money all helped.

But it was Yarnold’s mental toughness and explosive start that allowed her to hold on to a substantial overnight lead. Sliding first on Friday with all the pressure on her, Yarnold promptly extended her own course record.

That left her 0.78 seconds ahead going into the fourth run, skipping behind the scenes to keep herself calm.

Having put down two characteristically nerveless runs on Thursday to secure a 0.44 second overnight lead, she had gone to bed knowing that her coaches, rivals, the media, bookmakers and the British public expected her to win.

And 30 years to the day since Torvill and Dean’s Bolero in Sarajevo cemented their place in the lexicon of greatest British sporting moments, Yarnold repeated the feat of Amy Williams in 2010.

Just over five years ago she was discovered by a talent search designed to match promising athletes to minority sports.

Soon afterwards she hurled herself headfirst from corner three in Lillehammer wearing her old running spikes, ski goggles and bits of camping mat that had been converted into makeshift elbow and knee pads and didn’t look back.

“Lizzy Yarnold is unique. She has something different within her psychologically. Within five years of starting she has become an Olympic champion, and that is pretty much unheard of in any sport,” said Williams, who is now her landlady in Bath.

Yarnold’s father, Clive, who runs a smallholding in their Kentish village near Sevenoaks, and mother Judith, a teacher, were part of a jubilant British throng in homemade T-shirts that also included her sisters Charlotte and Katie.

Clive wore an Australian bush hat adorned with union jacks and Judith promptly burst into tears as Yarnold draped herself in a flag after her final run.

Back home, Mervyn Sugden was also cheering. When Yarnold had been balancing studies with training and a summer job at an underwriters, she put a jar in the office to raise money for a kit bag and Sugden, struck by her passion, stumped up for the bill. “He handed me an envelope out of his top pocket and said, ‘I hope this is enough for you’, and walked away,” said Yarnold.

Her boyfriend Roche and head coach Andi Schmid are part of an operation that has now delivered for Britain every time skeleton has been included in the Games.

The first two medals were the epitome of the dashing “have a go” heroes who epitomised the British approach to winter sport in the amateur era.

David Carnegie, the 11th Earl of Northesk, won bronze in 1928 then John Crammond, a stockbroker and qualified pilot who also wrote for the Observer, followed suit in 1948.

Success in the modern era has been founded on very different principles, masterminded from British Skeleton’s base at Bath University and the wind tunnels of Formula One giant McClaren.

Yarnold, who wrote her university dissertation on mental toughness, has said she has two different characters. Outside of sport, her hobbies include knitting and listening to the Archers. On the track, she listens to dance music to get pumped up and becomes “The Yarnold” – a ferociously focused competitor.

“I think I was bold enough to learn the Russian for I am champion. I believed in myself, I knew I could do it if I put in the hard work and dedication,” she added.

“My message would be follow your dreams, never give up and never limit yourself to what you can achieve.”

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Lizzy Yarnold wins gold – Sochi Winter Olympics – as it happened! | Simon Burnton and Ian McCourt

Rolling report: It was an action packed day in Sochi that was noted for Lizzy Yarnold winning Britain’s first gold of the Winter Olympics



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Lizzy Yarnold wins Sochi gold for GB in skeleton

• British hope secures first place with final two runs
• Yarnold’s success brings Britain’s first gold in Sochi
Pictures: the best images as Yarnold wins Olympic gold

Take off the headphones. Walk slowly out of the changing rooms. Click-clack across the wooden decking. Onto the track. Off with the galoshes and then the outerwear, always in the same order. Bend down to the sled, then 16 explosive strides in less than five seconds. Fix your eyes on the first corner. Deep breath. Relax.

Lizzy Yarnold, now one of just five British athletes to win individual gold medals in 90 years of the Winter Games, already knew what it would be like to win on the track at Sochi’s Sanki Sliding Centre because she had visualised it endlessly. Every one of the 17 corners on the 1500m track. Over and over again, despite only a handful of training runs. Just as she obsessively visualised every corner before every race during her World Cup winning season, in which she won four and finished on the podium in all but one.

It was that combination of serenity and intense focus that saw her deal with the overnight pressure heaped onto her by rivals and an expectant nation and extend a lead of 0.44sec to 0.78seconds following her third run, breaking her own track record. And then to extend it again to almost a full second (0.97) on her fourth, finishing with a total time of 3.52.89.

Between her third and fourth runs she cold be spotted wandering around behind the scenes in red Team GB bobble hat, seemingly without a care in the world. From the moment the build up to Sochi began, she has exuded calm and control.

“I knew I had 78 hundredths lead on Noelle [Pikus-Pace, who won silver] but when you start the run it is just like any training run, my processes are exactly the same, my coach is there like normal, and I just knew I should enjoy it and embrace the whole occasion,” she said. “I let the sled run a little bit more than I would usually and I just relaxed and loved it. I knew I could really go for it on that last run.”

What she won’t have visualised is the hurricane of attention about to hit her as the winner of just the 10th gold medal claimed by Britain in winter sport.

Even that is unlikely to faze an athlete so controlled she was able to remember a Valentine’s card her boyfriend, James Roche, who is part of the coaching team, to hand to him after winning gold.

Yarnold’s victory continues a streak that stretches back to 2002, when Royal Air Force intelligence officer Alex Coomber won bronze after training in supermarket car parks on a sled customised with skateboard wheels.

Shelley Rudman, who on Friday night finished 16th, won silver in Turin 2006. And Williams, now Yarnold’s landlord in Bath, went one better in 2010 as part of what was now a very professional operation.

Despite the pedigree, Yarnold’s rise has been unusually rapid. Less than four years after switching from heptathlon to skeleton at 19, she won only her second World Cup race in St Moritz and one week later was crowned world junior champion. “It’s hard work and dedication, I’ve been training after school since I was 13, and maybe I’m naturally good at skeleton,” she said.

“I always have high expectations of myself, I always secretly intended to come to Sochi, it was my goal. But to win the whole race is far beyond my expectations.”

No other nation without a track has ever won skeleton gold but Britain has become one of the best in the world with just a gym and a 140m “push track”.

The unprepossessing centre of the operation at Bath University, overseen by the team manager, Dave Moy, belies the sophistication of a system honed over 12 years and three Olympic cycles into a medal winning machine.

Formula One team McClaren, where Yarnold’s boyfriend Roche works, is among those pulled in to provide assistance from its Bond-like minimalist HQ in Woking.

But a large chunk of the £3.4m poured into the sport over four years goes on transporting the team around the world and technology to video the various tracks, which is then analysed and learned off by heart by the sliders. Because they have no track of their own, Britain’s sliders have become adept at learning others. Yarnold has proved almost supernaturally brilliant at doing so.

The Kentish farmer’s daughter’s latent talent for hurling herself down the ice at up to 90mph was discovered by a Girls4Gold talent spotting scheme run by UK Sport.

The first such scheme, Sporting Giants, discovered Helen Glover, who went on to win Britain’s first gold of the London Games in the coxless pairs with Heather Stanning. The second, Girls4Gold, has now delivered on its title ahead of schedule.

The Team GB chef de mission, Mike Hay, said Yarnold was “an athlete at the very top of her game”. He added: “Through hard work, determination, unwavering self-belief and an outstanding support system, Lizzy has earned a titles very few athletes can claim – she is the Olympic champion.”

It was just five years ago that Yarnold experienced her first “thrilling” slide down the Lillehammer track from the third corner in a makeshift kit of running spikes, ski goggles and elbow pads fashioned out of foam camping mats. She wanted another go straight away.

This year, she finished as World Cup winner and went into the Olympics as hot favourite.

Like other successful athletes – Sir Ben Ainslie springs to mind – Yarnold talks about having one personality off the track (mild-mannered Lizzy who likes gossiping, knitting and The Archers) and another on it (The Yarnold – steely, determined, single-minded). But listen to Yarnold describe her sliding style, which involves steering with her toes and feeling the track through her body, and you soon realise that this adrenaline-fuelled sport is as much about feel as brute force. “You have to be quite gentle, especially in Sochi because there is a bit of a camber so even though you think you can see what is going on you also have to feel through your body.”

Yarnold has learned to have “total faith” in “the system”. “It is not only myself bringing me into the groove, it is the whole team around me,” she says. It is a groove she effortlessly slid into in Sochi, adding her name to a proud lineage of female medallists in what has become an unlikely and enduring British sporting success story.

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Winter Olympics: Britain’s other skeleton medallists

Lizzy Yarnold is the sixth British medal winner in the skeleton – a success story that started in 1928 with the Earl of Northesk

1928: David Carnegie – bronze

The first skeleton medal for Great Britain was claimed by David Carnegie, the 11th Earl of Northesk, in St Moritz in 1928, the only British medal of the Games. Carnegie went on to serve as as a major in the Intelligence Corps in the second world war and sat in the House of Lords from 1959 to 1963.

1948: John Crammond – bronze

Having served in the RAF during the second world war, Crammond won bronze in St Moritz, just as Carnegie had done 20 years earlier, at the ripe age of 41. Was the oldest Winter Olympic medallist in an individual sport until the 42-year-old Russian luger Albert Demtschenko eclipsed him in Sochi.

2002: Alex Coomber – bronze

After a 54-year wait the third piece of Olympic skeleton silverware for GB was the bronze medal captured by Alex Coomber at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City. Before the tournament, Coomber had won three skeleton World Cup titles consecutively (despite only taking up the sport in 1997) but a broken wrist scuppered her chances of gold and she missed out by 0.26sec.

2006: Shelley Rudman – silver

Rudman became GB’s only medallist at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin when she won an unexpected silver. Although she was unable to win a second Olympic medal at Vancouver in 2010 Rudman did go on to become the world champion last year.

2010: Amy Williams – gold

Unable to qualify for the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Williams later broke the track record twice in her race for gold at the 2010 Games, winning by more than half a second. Now a presenter of BBC Two’s Ski Sunday and Lizzy Yarnold’s landlady.

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Sochi 2014: Lizzy Yarnold wins skeleton gold at the Olympic Games – in pictures

The British skeleton competitor became the Olympic champion in Sochi with a huge win. Having topped the standings after two runs on day six, she produced a record-breaking third run and a wince-inducing fourth run to seal Britain’s first gold medal of the Games

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Sochi 2014: Lizzy Yarnold on pole for gold at halfway point in skeleton bob

• Briton leads by 0.44sec from rival Pikus-Pace
• Disappointment for Shelley Rudman in 11th

Britain’s Lizzy Yarnold is in pole position after the first two rounds of the skeleton bob in Sochi.

With two more rounds to go on Friday, she has almost a half-second lead over her American rival Noelle Pikus-Pace.

Britain’s gold-medal favourite clocked 58.46sec on her second run to lead by 0.44sec from Pikus-Pace and by 0.55sec from the Russian challenger Elena Nikitina at the Sanki Sliding Center.

Yarnold’s first run was marginally quicker at 58.43sec – a track record – but after the first run she only led by 0.05sec from Nikitina, who fell away a little in the lower part of her second run.

Her fellow Briton Shelley Rudman was 11th, a marginal improvement on her first run which left her 12th.

The four runs are averaged together to decide the gold medal.

Yarnold’s advantage is greater than the 0.3sec lead held by Amy Williams at the halfway point of the equivalent competition in Vancouver four years ago, which she went on to win.

Yarnold said: “I don’t feel the pressure and I have not been thinking about other people’s expectations at all.

“I have such high expectations of myself anyway that I just want to get better and better as an athlete.”

Yarnold pronounced herself “very happy” with her first two runs, but added: “You’ll never have a perfect run and it is about knowing how to react and being a very fast-thinking athlete.

“I will go back tonight and do my stretching and eat lots of good food and do the normal athlete thing and try to improve it again tomorrow.”

The Russian team were later the subject of a protest from Australia, who alleged the Russians’ exclusive use of a push-start facility close to the Olympic site contravened regulations. The protest was thrown out by the race jury.

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Sochi 2014: Lizzy Yarnold relies on Mervyn to maintain skeleton record

• Team-mate Shelley Rudman in last shot at Olympic glory
• Yarnold fastest in four of her five skeleton training runs

At the Sanki Sliding Centre high in the mountains above Sochi, Lizzy Yarnold and Shelley Rudman will on Thursday strive to mine a seam of rare British winter sport success that stretches back to 1928.

In contrast to their record at most winter sports, Britain has been on the podium in every Games in which the skeleton has been included.

The squad are backed by £3.5m in funding over four years and a high-performance cocoon masterminded from a shed at Bath University that makes it the winter sport equivalent of Britain’s cycling medal factory.

Rudman, a silver medallist in Turin in 2006 and the reigning world champion who is aiming for one more shot at Olympic glory at 32, has been superseded in the pecking order by Maidstone’s 25-year-old Yarnold.

Appropriately for a sport in which athletes approach speeds of 90mph while lying headfirst on a sled, Yarnold has surprised even those at British Skeleton’s Bath headquarters with her rapid progress. She won this season’s World Cup, finishing on the podium in every race but one.

This week Yarnold, who listens to Dizzee Rascal before her runs to hype her up and country music in between to calm down, has been flying in training. She has been the quickest down the track in four of her five training runs, sometimes by more than 0.8sec – a huge margin in a sport that usually comes down to tenths.

One of Yarnold’s main rivals, the American Noelle Pikus-Pace who won silver behind her in the eight-race World Cup series, has been struggling with a back injury.

The sliders will compete over four runs split across Thursday and Friday, with all their times added together and the fastest winning. World Cup races are normally contested over two runs.

The animated Yarnold says she is a completely different character once she gets on her sled, nicknamed Mervyn after the donor who helped fund her earliest forays into the sport when she was balancing training with student life.

“Even in the gym people comment that I turn into The Yarnold, a very different animal. So I don’t smile, I’m not chatty, I’ve got a job to do. I’m quite aggressive and I’m filled with adrenaline,” said Yarnold, who had never stepped on to a sled until she was picked up by a UK Sport Girls4Gold talent search five years ago.

Amy Williams, who travelled to Vancouver four years ago as Britain’s No2 slider behind Rudman but memorably seized gold, said that Yarnold looked very strong. “Everything has just clicked with her and she’s in that bubble. Very confident. She’s a new breed of skeleton girl – heavier and powerful – a lot of weight behind her,” said Williams, who is Yarnold’s landlady in Bath.

“Her and Noelle are big strong heavy girls. Lizzy is also very aerodynamic – she’s flat and looks brilliant on the sled. She works really hard.”

The course appears to favour Yarnold but she will face strong competition from Pikus-Pace and Germany’s 2010 bronze medallist Anja Huber.

The Russian Maria Orlova has been consistently the second fastest in training and has the advantage of having practised endlessly on the Sochi track.

Britain’s first skeleton medallists were very much in the “have a go” mould, flinging themselves down the Cresta Run in St Moritz.

David Carnegie, the 11th Earl of Northesk, won bronze in 1928 then John Crammond, a stockbroker and qualified pilot who also wrote about winter sports for the Observer, followed suit when it returned to the Games in 1948.

Success in the modern era – it was reintroduced in 2002 – has been founded on very different principles, including key engineering roles for BAE and the Formula One giant McLaren.

“The sport’s success is founded on doing the basics very well, having a formula for success and ruthlessly sticking to it. It’s been a journey over a 14-year period to Sochi,” said Simon Timson, the UK Sport performance director who once held the same role at British Skeleton.

“In that time, British Skeleton has focused really simply on whether they have the right athletes, whether they have the right coaches and whether they have the best equipment to slide on.”

History contains plenty of cheering precedents for the British team but there is also the odd warning.

When skeleton was reintroduced to the Games in 2002, Britain’s Alex Coomber was strongly fancied for gold. Like Yarnold, she was No1 in the world going into the Games but ended up with bronze.

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Sochi 2014: How I became the Private Gomer Pyle of the Winter Olympics | Barry Glendenning

Mercifully, the time for scene-setting is now over, so let the snow and ice-capades of the 22nd Winter Olympiad begin

You will be aware by now that a shivering swarm of the world’s media converged on Sochi this week. Their brief: scene-setting in the buildup to the Winter Olympics. It was a task that appeared largely to involve the chronicling of security threats, legalised homophobia and their own appalling working conditions. We’ve all heard the stories: beleaguered journalists roaming the shores of the Black Sea frantically beachcombing for functional scraps of wi-fi.

We’ve all seen the pictures: amusing toilets with accompanying guidelines that appear to outlaw angling in them. Give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day. Advise him not to fish and he’ll make you an object of global derision on Twitter and Facebook.

Against this backdrop of diligently documented paranoia, fear, hatred and assorted workers’ rights abuses, a fortnight-long festival of sliding is due to break out. In the wake of a mirth-inducing opening ceremony that will no doubt further showcase the eccentricities of funny foreigners and their funny foreign ways, the world’s foremost winter sports practitioners will don garish Lycra and take to the ice and snow to do battle against the elements and each other in their collective bid for Olympic glory. This column has not been lucky enough to be dispatched to witness their exploits at first hand, it has been working diligently behind the scenes much closer to home.

It all started before Christmas, when a colleague and I were despatched to Bath University, a seat of learning and sporting excellence in a beautiful English town, where the cream of Great Britain’s sliding elite had gathered for a media briefing: speed-skaters, skeleton-sliders, curlers, snowboarders, ice dancers, skiers and bobsleigh drivers. For a land mass boasting large areas where light snowfall invariably prompts the total breakdown of local infrastructure, Britain seems to produce a surprising number of athletes who thrive in freezing conditions. They seem, to a man and woman, very nice people, albeit people who had quite clearly been very carefully trained in the field of straight-batting queries from journalists. None of them had opinions they were prepared to venture on Russian homophobia. With a couple of high-profile exceptions, pretty much all of them hoped to finish in the top 10.

Some weeks later I found myself en route to Ostersund, a small town in Sweden where the good people of the TV station Eurosport had invited me to try my hand at the Olympic sport of biathlon. One of the more bewildering of the many perplexing disciplines to be contested in Sochi, it combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting and originated as an exercise for Norwegian soldiers.

Long an object of bemusement for the apparent randomness of the disciplines involved, winter biathlon once prompted the comedian Jerry Seinfeld to muse that it’s like combining swimming and strangling a guy. “Why don’t we have that?” he wondered, with the inquisitive air of a man who has never seen or played a game of water polo.

Hailing from a particularly flat part of Ireland where food can be purchased in shops, I have never felt compelled to either ski or shoot a gun and it quickly became apparent that I was predictably and comically inept at the former. With rifle in hand, however, it was a completely different story and as I peppered target after target – 13 in a row, it took two to get my eye in – from 50 metres, it occurred to me that I was biathlon’s answer to Private Gomer Pyle.

The slow-witted, overweight and clumsy marine cadet from Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, Gomer Pyle is the cruel nickname bestowed upon a mentally unstable recruit who is largely useless but eventually shows stunning aptitude for marksmanship, only to blow his own head off while having a breakdown in a communal latrine not entirely dissimilar to those currently prompting no end of mirth in Sochi.

Having finally found exactly half a sport I’m not terrible at after a lifetime of trying, it was back to Bath University to experience the skeleton, a hair-raising suicide-hurtle disparagingly known to laymen as That Thing With The Tea Tray. For a nation that has no ice chute through and around which participants can arrow at speeds of up to 95mph protected only by a helmet, Great Britain is remarkably good at skeleton, having produced reigning Olympic champion Amy Williams (now retired), as well as genuine Sochi gold medal hopes Shelley Rudman and Lizzy Yarnold.

The trio’s success has been attributed in no small part to Bath’s 140m long push-start track, down which I was lucky enough to find myself not so much careering as rolling reasonably sedately, headfirst with my chin a few inches off the ground, at a fairly leisurely 30mph just last week.

Rolling on wheels down a track that boasts neither curve nor camber, it bears as much relation to the experience of actual skeleton as gently plodding along Blackpool beach aboard a donkey does to riding a racehorse in the Grand National but, needless to say, I was terrified. Mercifully, the time for scene-setting is now over, so let the snow and ice-capades of the 22nd Winter Olympiad begin.

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Sochi 2014: Team GB’s best medal hopes at the Winter Olympics | Jacob Steinberg

From the curling rink to the snowboard half-pipe, we look at Britain’s best chances for Olympic glory in Sochi

Women’s curling team

After disappointing results for Team GB at the previous two Games, Eve Muirhead, Vicki Adams, Claire Hamilton, Anna Sloan and Lauren Gray will be heavily fancied to emulate the success of Salt Lake in 2002 and win gold in Sochi. After all, the quintet were victorious for Scotland in last year’s world championships and also took silver at this season’s European championships. Muirhead is the only member of the team with Olympic experience and they are likely to face strong challenges from Canada and Sweden, who won gold at the 2006 and 2010 Games

Likely chances? Gold is the ambition

Lizzy Yarnold, Skeleton

There is no doubt that she is a gutsy competitor. During a training run for a World Cup race in 2012, she blacked out on the last corner. “I went into the last corner and there was so much pressure my brain just wasn’t prepared, or couldn’t take it so I just switched off,” Yarnold said. She finished third in the race two days later. A former world junior champion, she is coming into form at the right time, having won the 2013-14 overall World Cup title, finishing on the podium in seven out of eight races and winning four

Likely chances? Aiming for gold

Shelley Rudman, Skeleton

In a bid to improve her power at the start, Rudman has put on a stone in the past year and the effects were seen when she won gold at the world championships at St Moritz last year, becoming the first British woman to do so. The 32-year-old also won the World Cup title in the 2011-12 season. With that in mind, Rudman will be justifiably confident about her prospects and she has plenty of Olympic experience. She won silver in 2006 but went on to disappoint four years later, only managing to finish sixth in Vancouver.

Likely chances? Silver at best

Elise Christie, Short track speed skating

Christie made her Olympic debut as a 19-year-old in Vancouver four years ago and has made major strides in her field. From being content simply to take part, now she wants to win and is improving all the time. “I started to think about what could happen if I kept working on all those one per cents where I could improve,” she says. Last March the 5ft 3in skater became the first British woman to win a world championship medal in short track when she took 1,000m bronze, having taken the 1,000m World Cup title a month earlier. The Scot also won 1,000m and 1500m gold at last year’s European championships.

Likely chances? Bronze at least

Men’s two-man bobsleigh

After a disastrous showing four years ago, when the team were disqualified after a crash, they are more hopeful this time. Team GB are taking their biggest bobsled team since Salt Lake in 2002, with two teams selected for the four-man bob. The first crew will be led by John Jackson, who has recovered from rupturing an achilles last July. A team of Jackson, Bruce Tasker, Stuart Benson and Joel Fearon claimed silver at the World Cup in December and the European championships. Team GB also finished fifth at last year’s world championships, missing out on a medal by 0.07sec

Likely chances? Possible bronze

James Woods, Freestyle skiing, slopestyle

With his long hair, it is not a surprise to learn that Woods started out as a skateboarder and rollerblader. Just as well – the 22-year-old became Britain’s first freestyle skiing medallist for 20 years when he won slopestyle silver at the world championships last year, before following that up with the World Cup slopestyle title and bronze at the Winter X Games. Despite his youth and the fact that he did not learn to ski on snow, unlike his fellow competitors, Woods is confident about his chances. “I like to think I’ll smash it,” he says.

Likely chances? Aiming for podium

Katie Summerhayes, Freestyle skiing, slopestyle

Like Woods, she learnt to ski on dry slopes, to the apparent amusement of the major ski nations, but Summerhayes doesn’t care. “The major ski nations find it funny that we learned on dry slopes. Let’s see what happens in Sochi,” she said. The 18-year-old has had to graft, having overcome a career-threatening knee injury in 2012 to win silver in the World Cup. However she has been dogged by further knee complaints relating to the original injury and only competed for the first time this season on 10 January in the World Cup, where she took silver again.

Likely chances? Bronze at best

Jenny Jones, Snowboarding

Remarkably this will be the 33-year-old’s first appearance at the Winter Olympics, not that she is lacking experience and trophies, having won three slopestyle gold medals at the X games, including one European and two global titles. She also finished sixth at last year’s world championships, then earned her first podium at a World Cup, winning silver. There is an air of calm about her, which is maybe not too surprising for someone who has worked in a cardboard factory and taught fencing in order to fund her snowboarding career.

Likely chances Bronze at best

Billy Morgan, Snowboarding

A former acrobat, he learnt to snowboard on a dry slope in Southampton as a teenager. The sport has taken its toll on his body. He snapped his anterior cruciate ligament and medial cruciate ligament in his knee last September and will be competing in Sochi without an ACL, which sounds unpleasant. Though his results have been middling, he was boosted by winning bronze at the World Cup last year. “It’s given me the drive to keep working hard,” Morgan said. One career highlight was becoming the first snowboarder to land a triple backside rodeo (three flips in mid-air).

Likely chances? Bronze at best

Kristan Bromley, Skeleton

The man they call Mr Ice. At 41, he is Team GB’s oldest athlete at the Games and has competed in the previous three but has never won a medal. He made his skeleton debut in 1996 and has ended every season ranked Britain’s No1. In 2008, he made history by becoming the first man to win the world championships, European championships and World Cup in the same season, an achievement he claims will never be bettered in his career. Might a first Olympic medal at the fourth time of asking change his mind?

Likely chances? Bronze at best

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