Yarnold gives glimpse inside mind of Olympic champion

16 February 2014 / 06:32

Go to any bar in Rosa Khutor, the mountain resort high above Sochi, and you will find Olympians winning gold, silver and bronze for partying after their events. Just don't expect to see Lizzy Yarnold among them.

Yarnold returned to her room in the athletes' village after winning skeleton gold and took out her notepad, recording meticulous track notes from her gold medal winning runs so she can be even faster when she next returns to the venue.

She then had three slices of pepperoni pizza, nibbled some chocolate boyfriend James had bought her for Valentine's Day and went to bed. 

Yesterday morning she woke up and listened to The Archers, the farmer's daughter gets her daily fix of the everyday story of country folk in Ambridge wherever she travels.

"It's slowly sinking in, I don't think anyone can prepare for winning an Olympic gold medal, it's just very special," she said.

"As soon as I finished I started writing my track notes, it's something I always do and the routine works for me. It sounds crazy because I won by nearly a second but I've been thinking about the four runs all day and how I could have got them faster. I feel there is so much to improve on.

"It's such a technical track, it's low speed which makes it uniquely challenging and I've just loved sliding here."

Yarnold always knew she wanted to be an athlete but grew up admiring fellow Olympic champion Denise Lewis and dreaming of following her lead as a heptathlete. 

Her journey to skeleton success started with a talent camp just six years ago, being whittled down from 1,500 hopefuls to a place on the development squad. However, her need for speed goes back a few more years.

"I think my parents knew I was crazy when we went to the Millennium Dome and I had a go on one of the rides," she said.

"I was only about 12 and there was this ride that dropped you from a big height so your stomach was in your mouth. I remember getting off and telling my Dad I wanted another go. I love that adrenaline feeling of going really fast."

Yesterday's medal ceremony was an emotional high water mark for the 24-year-old, who was already shedding tears before she even set foot on the podium.


"I can't believe I cried like a baby," said Yarnold. "The medal is much better than I ever imagined. I've been working a lifetime for this. I could see all my family and friends at the front. I couldn't have done it without them."

Amy Williams retired soon after winning her skeleton gold in Vancouver, claiming her body could no longer cope with the stresses and strains placed on it by an intense training programme and the forces of gravity.

However, Yarnold insists she has more to do.

"No-one has defended an Olympic gold in the sport of skeleton," she added. 'I'm still young, I'm only 25 and I'm very driven. While this is a massive achievement for me there is still so much more to give and I'm still hungry for it.

"I don't think anyone has won the overall World Cup and the Olympic gold in the same year. It's a great achievement, I'm super-proud of it and I'm enjoying the moment but I'll be back in the gym soon. 

"Now I'm Olympic champion there's a lot of responsibility that comes with the gold medal and I understand that. You've just got to follow your dream and dedicate a lot of time. It's 100,000 hours, they say, of dedicated practice, and that's really what it takes."

But Yarnold has one ambition that could trump them all.

"Do you think they might actually have me on The Archers?" she asks. "I'd love to be asked to play a small role, now that would be really amazing."

From James Toney, Sportsbeat, in Sochi

© Sportsbeat 2014