Lizzy Yarnold's sights on gold and a piece of history

Lizzy Yarnold insists she's never lost belief that she can make British sporting history '“ again. Yarnold is attempting to become the first British athlete to defend a title at the Winter Olympics, but is quick to admit this season has not gone according to plan, writes James Toney.

She started the campaign with confidence high, having finally solved the dizziness issues that were posing a major threat to her career.

But a bronze in Lake Placid was followed by an uncharacteristic run of distant finishes until she claimed fourth in the final race of the World Cup 
season in Königssee.

It’s all a far cry from four years ago when she arrived in Sochi having claimed seven podiums in her previous eight races, including four victories.

“It would be boring if I was winning every week, what would you write about?” she said. “It’s certainly been an up-and-down season, but it’s a reminder that sport is challenging and anything can happen. I’ve just had to focus on remembering that I’m good at doing this.

“The last race was great for confidence, I’ve always been a very intuitive slider, but I’ve been over-thinking things. I’m more relaxed and confident in myself now, perhaps just being back at the Olympics just makes me happier and settled. I’ve never taken my eyes off the prize here, no matter what the results were saying. I didn’t get disheartened. I’ve always said this season was about being good in PyeongChang, nothing else 

It’s hard to know whether Yarnold is convinced by such fighting talk, but there are reasons for optimism, even if bullish confidence about her title defence would be stretching it.

Yarnold, 29, is best at learning new tracks and the Olympics is over four runs, rather than the two at World Cup events, which should play to this strength. In addition, the track suits her, underlined by a strong showing in the test event 12 months ago.

Skeleton has quickly established itself as our national winter sport, perhaps a fitting tribute to those corinthian spirited amateurs who once careered down the fabled 
Cresta Run in St Moritz.

Since women’s skeleton made its debut in 2002, Great Britain has never finished outside the medals, with Yarnold’s gold four years ago following Amy Williams’s success in Vancouver and a silver and bronze for Shelley Rudman and Alex Coomber in Turin and Salt Lake City.

“The Olympics suit me, two days of competition under the most intense pressure,” added Yarnold. “I’ve got that knowledge of having been there and done it – no-one else has that.”

However, Germany’s Jacqueline Lölling remains the one to beat while Yarnold’s team-mate Laura Daes has produced better results than the Olympic champion this season.

Yarnold, pictured left, followed up her Olympic victory by winning the World Cup and world title the following season, but then took a year away from the sport. She got married. She took a course in lampshade making, wallpapered the house and completed an Open University course in bookkeeping.

When she returned, there is no doubt the sport had moved on, a new crop of youngsters had made their mark and were in no mood to give the Olympic champion a welcome return.

“If I hadn’t taken that year off, I wouldn’t be sitting here now,” she adds. “I had to take that time away to re-boot, to find that motivation. I won everything there was to win so I had to find that re-motivation – and that was to go to Pyeongchang. It took a while to feel like an athlete again but I’m right back in it now.”

l Watch Lizzy Yarnold at 11.20am on Friday 16 February on Eurosport 1 and Eurosport Player. Don’t miss a moment of the Olympic Winter Games on Eurosport and Eurosport 
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