Lizzy Yarnold: Profile of Britain's Winter Olympics skeleton champion
Last Updated: 14/02/14 6:28pm
Lizzy Yarnold: continued Britain's run of success in women's skeleton
Lizzy Yarnold's path to Olympic glory seemed pre-ordained long before she even dreamed of clambering head-first onto a 90mph skeleton sled.
A ferocious sporting competitor in her teens, Yarnold chose to attend Maidstone Grammar School for the simple reason that its early finishes would allow her to devote more time to her burgeoning athletics career.
A promising heptathlete at county level, and once ranked as high as 54th in Great Britain at shot put, Yarnold's commitment was such that she would often take to sleeping in gymnasium changing rooms in order to optimise her time for training.
Yarnold was 19 years old when she took part in the 'Girls4Gold' talent identification programme in hope that she would be diverted into Great Britain's modern pentathlon programme.
Instead, she was sent to skeleton, whose programme had increased exponentially since Shelley Rudman won a surprise silver medal at the Turin Olympics two years previously.
Yarnold immediately took to her new domain, and within four years of clambering on a sled for the first time, she had been crowned junior world champion in Innsbruck in 2012.
A matter of months later, Yarnold translated that initial success to the senior ranks when she won an unexpected bronze medal at the World Championships in the United States.
The following season, Yarnold continued her startling trajectory by reaching the podium in two of the four World Cup races she entered.
Yet despite her impressive performances, she still started the Olympic season in the shadows of long-time British number one Rudman, who had enhanced her own quest for a second Winter Olympic medal by winning the World Championships in St Moritz.
Yarnold made the perfect start in Calgary in November when she was awarded victory in the opening World Cup race of the season, despite finishing behind Noelle Pikus-Pace, who was subsequently disqualified for a minor sled infringement.
The American veteran gained revenge the following week by winning on her home track at Park City, but Yarnold's runners-up place cemented her World Cup lead, and it was further enhanced by a third consecutive podium finish in the first of two back-to-back World Cups in Lake Placid.
Yarnold won the second of the double header before the season switched to Europe and she increased her lead with her third win in Winterberg.
Second place in St Moritz and another win in Igls effectively wrapped up the overall World Cup title for Yarnold with a race to spare, and ninth in a weather-abridged season-ender in Konigssee brought an end to a dominant campaign.
Yarnold's relentless success over the course of the season and her evident ability to handle pressure saw her immediately installed as the biggest British favourite to win a Winter Olympic medal since Torvill and Dean.
Seemingly unpeturbed by the heightened levels of expectation, Yarnold produced two solid runs to take a large 0.44 seconds lead into the final day of Olympic competition.
On Friday night at the Sanki Sliding Center in the mountains above Rosa Khutor, the determination she has showed since her early grammar school days finally paid off in the shape of Olympic gold.