Yarnold's eyes firmly set on Olympic prize
IT was the winter that saw Lizzy Yarnold come of age, the season when the girl from West Kingsdown became an international star.
Back in November, the 23-year-old skeleton bob racer had her sights firmly set on winning gold at the World Junior Championships. She did just that, but then went even further.
Yarnold took Olympic champion Amy Williams' place on the World Cup circuit and beat all-comers to win two World Cup events.
Then, in Lake Placid, in February, Yarnold stunned the winter sports world by taking home the bronze medal.
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"I'm starting to believe it a bit more now," Yarnold said. "I've watched the videos of the World Cup and that keeps me motivated during the off season. You know why you are slogging away in the gym. I look so relaxed in the videos and that shows I wasn't thinking too much about what I was doing. I was just sliding – doing what I do best. All the hard work pays off."
Two races stick out for Yarnold as the ones when she realised she belonged with the top names in the sport.
"Calgary, the second World Cup race, was a real highlight," she said. "I was left in the changing room and it was a pressure situation, but I just relaxed and really enjoyed it.
"The big moment was probably the World Championships. Amy had gone down before me and she was fifth, I was fourth and Shelley (Rudman) was third. Three Brits in a row. Amy had done a really good run, but I felt relaxed and went out there to see what I could do. I got a good time and Shelley was up. I was waiting there as she came down and I'd jumped from fourth to third.
"I was going to be on the podium and I burst into tears. It was relief, more than anything, that the whole season was over. At that moment my family and fiancé were just a few metres away – they hadn't really been out to watch my competitions, so it was amazing to share it with them."
National television and radio appearances have followed. She's also doing talks at local schools and loves nothing more than trying to inspire youngsters to succeed in sport.
Yarnold's season doesn't start again until October, but after a short break she is back in full-time training as preparations gather pace ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
"I've been back for five weeks – it's horrible," she said. "We work with weights and do sprints, and generally try and keep fit. We've got a dry run push start in Bath and that's all we can really use. I just need to be as fast as I can."
Yarnold added: "I'm not working now. I'm concentrating on training. There are only two summers until Sochi. When you think about it there's not much time. This summer is about working hard and next summer will be about making sure nothing goes wrong."
The GB Skeleton Bob training squad has a different look about it now, following Williams's retirement last week. Yarnold says she is a good friend, has been a key part of the team and will be sorely missed.
"It was a shock," Yarnold said. "It's big news. After that Olympic gold she had reached the pinnacle of her sport. She had made her dream come true."
Amazingly, Yarnold is looking for a sponsor, so if anyone is interested should visit www.lizzygbskeleton.com