Amy Williams, the skeleton champion from the last Olympics in Vancouver, has given her fellow Briton Lizzy Yarnold an extra incentive to win the gold medal in Sochi.
Not only is the now retired Williams a friend and mentor to Yarnold, she’s also her landlady, and has jokingly threatened to kick her out if she doesn’t come up with the goods.
“I’ll be knocking on the door,” said Williams, in jest. “I might give her a few months leeway [to get out].”
Yarnold is one of Britain’s best hopes to win gold in Sochi, along with team-mate and rival Shelley Rudman, who won a skeleton silver in Turin in 2006.
The 25-year-old Yarnold was crowned World Cup winner after winning four of the season’s eight races and missing the podium just once. Her consistency saw her finish above American Noelle Pikus-Pace with Rudman third.
Yarnold has been consistently quick in her training runs at the Sanki Sliding Centre while Pikus-Pace, who her coach Tuffy Latour says is managing back issues, missed training on Wednesday. The competition starts with the first two of four heats today.
Williams, who retired from skeleton in 2012 due to persistent injury problems, said that Yarnold was blessed with a “natural ability to slide”.
“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. 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 really hard.”
Williams is a British team ambassador and part of the BBC’s commentary team in Sochi. She sees in Yarnold many of the traits that helped her to top the Olympic podium in Whistler.
“I know that my triumph spurred her on to really want to go out and get it – she’s taken on the same training attitude that she saw I had and it’s working,” said Williams.
“She gets her head down and trains hard and obviously has a natural ability to slide. For me she’s proved the best out there – to do exactly the same as she’s been doing. I think that’s the big thing – everyone knows it’s the Olympics and not to get freaked out by the pressure to perform.
“It’s the same situation I was in. She knows she is good enough to go get a medal and she’s just got to remember to enjoy her sliding.”
Williams said a gold medal was there for the taking. “I said to her the hard work is done now. “Once you’re at the Games you have to remember you’re the best in the world. I just want her to stand on that start line and do what she’s always done. Don’t do anything differently just because it’s the Olympics.”
Williams claimed Britain’s only medal of the 2010 Games – Britain’s first solo Winter Olympics gold medal for 30 years and the first by a woman for 58 years.
Williams travelled to Vancouver as the No 2 skeleton slider in the British team behind Rudman, but swept aside the competition with a winning margin of 0.56 seconds.
She decided not to pursue a second gold in Sochi after the seasons following her Olympic triumph were blighted by injury but said she has no regrets about retiring.
“I stopped for many many reasons but mostly because my body was broken,” she said. “I’ve got a lot of disc, neck and knee problems. I was in pain every day for the whole of my career.”