Lizzy Yarnold wins Sochi 2014 gold for Great Britain

 

Lizzy Yarnold won Great Britain's first gold medal of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics after dominating the women's skeleton from start to finish.

Yarnold, 25, produced a solid final run to finish 0.97 seconds ahead of Noelle Pikus-Pace of United States.

Britain's Winter Olympic gold medallists

1924: Men (curling)

1936: Men (ice hockey)

1952: Jeannette Altwegg (figure skating)

1964: Tony Nash & Robin Dixon (two-man bobsleigh)

1976: John Curry (figure skating)

1980: Robin Cousins (figure skating)

1984: Jayne Torvill & Christopher Dean (figure skating)

2002: Women (curling)

2010: Amy Williams (skeleton)

2014: Lizzy Yarnold (skeleton)

* Madge Syers won figure skating gold at the 1908 Summer Olympics in London

Britain claimed the skeleton title for the second successive Winter Olympics after Amy Williams won gold at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

It is Britain's second medal in Sochi and 10th gold in Winter Games history.

Britain's reigning world champion Shelley Rudman, who won silver at the 2006 Olympics, finished 16th.

Yarnold led after every round of the competition and held a 0.44 second advantage after the first two runs on Thursday.

She extended that to 0.78 secs after setting a new track record in Friday's third run before finishing in a total of three minutes, 52.89 seconds, ahead of Pikus-Pace and bronze medallist Elena Nikitina of Russia.

"I'm just so chuffed I'm Olympic champion," Yarnold told BBC Sport.

"My fourth run I was totally relaxed and enjoyed it. It was a bit of a messy one but I'm just so thrilled I got myself here after five years hard work.

"As an athlete you do so much hard work, but it's worth it for days like this."

Yarnold negotiates free rent with Williams

UK Sport set Team GB the challenge of securing three medals in Sochi, whilst predicting they could claim up to seven.

After Jenny Jones won snowboard slopestyle bronze on Sunday, Great Britain is now edging closer to their minimum target.

Yarnold's success means British Skeleton maintained its proud tradition of securing a medal in each of the six Olympic Games the sport has featured in, dating back to 1928.

She grew up in Kent and competed in heptathlon events as a child, having been inspired to take up the sport by watching Denise Lewis win Olympic gold at the Sydney 2000 Games.

Analysis

"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.

"She experienced intensive teaching in the first year, doing hundreds of run with great equipment and coaching. You have to be taught how to slide, then you are developed from there as quickly as possible into a champion."

Yarnold took up skeleton in 2008 after being recruited through UK Sport-backed talented identification programme 'Girls4Gold'.

Last month she won the overall Skeleton World Cup title after setting a British record of seven podium finishes in a season.

Her medal will be presented at a ceremony at the Olympic Park at 16:30 GMT on Saturday.

Pikus-Pace, 31, who was fourth at the Vancouver Games and now plans to retire from the sport, revealed that she suffered a black-out on the course last Wednesday.

The mother-of-two lost consciousness and had to go for an MRI scan last Friday, missing several training sessions in the process.

"I couldn't hear or see when I got to the bottom and it was a bit scary," she said. "But I don't want to take anything away from Lizzy's win. I was fine today and she was brilliant."

Yarnold 'so chuffed' with Olympic gold.