Week 7: Hero – Lizzy Yarnold

by Jackie_South on February 16, 2014

Olympics hero

Our weekly Hero award goes to Women’s Skeleton Olympic gold medalist, Lizzy Yarnold

Imagine hurtling at 80 miles an hour with your chin an inch from the ground beneath you. Imagine doing so whilst trying not to black out as you experience pressures five times that of gravity as you hit turn after turn. And imagine doing it on something that appears as flimsy as tea tray. You have to be a hero even to attempt the skeleton.

The skeleton sums up much of what is great about the Winter Olympics: almost insane risk, breathtaking speed and startling skill. Years of training are needed to have the fitness to compete – to have the muscles to deal with the turns and the neck muscles to cope with the pressures, and to sprint for the start even before you consider the skills needed on the course.

On Friday, our office computers had gone down, so I took time out to watch the final runs live. First, Lizzy Yarnold’s great third run (a track record) gave her a clear 0.75 seconds lead going into the fourth and final set – a big cushion in a sport where results are frequently decided by hundredths of a second. But, in the fourth and final runs, everyone’s speeds improved as the competitors became more used to the track and as the ice started to warm. Could Yarnold hold on? In the end, despite the odd moment of tension, she increased her lead still further.

Lizzy Yarnold entered these Olympics as the favourite, but that is no guarantee of success. Yarnold held her nerve well to win, and has been a great victor whose enthusiasm, along with that of her supportive “Yarnie Army”, have endeared her to all. Even comedian Mark Steele was excitedly tweeting about her victory on Friday: her dad was apparently at school with him. When a victory is so infectious that it makes old Trots like Steele turn patriotic, who know you are something special.

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