She reputedly complained of "not really liking it" when she first tried the skeleton bob eight years ago. But the reward for Amy Williams of sticking with the discipline, which sees competitors hurtle headfirst on a sled at speeds of up to 85 miles per hour, was the highest sporting accolade – Olympic gold.
The 27-year-old collected her medal yesterday after she slid to victory in Vancouver on her trusted sled Arthur to end Britain's 30-year wait for a solo Winter Olympics win. And as Prime Minister Gordon Brown joined toasts to her success, PR experts predicted her triumph would translate into lucrative sponsorship deals.
The PR guru Max Clifford claimed Williams could earn between £200,000 and £300,000 in the next year from magazine, television and sponsorship deals. "The fact that she's an attractive-looking girl, the fact that she's won for the first time in 30 years – she could have a wonderful year or two or three," he added. Eddie May, director of Threepipe Sport, the sports division of the PR agency Threepipe, agreed she could earn a six-figure sum. He said Williams's team-mate Shelley Rudman's silver medal made "quite a big impact" four years ago and that the sport attracted "hi-tech" brands. King of Shaves sponsors Rudman and her fiancé, the fellow skeleton racer Kristan Bromley.
But another PR expert, Mark Borkowski, warned that, as skeleton was not a big spectator sport, Williams's commercial exposure would be "a short-term thing rather than developing something significant as a meaningful brand that is going to lock into people".
Four years ago, Williams commentated from the sidelines in Turin and was a reserve for Rudman, who finished sixth this year. The disappointment of not competing spurred her on to beat the rest of the Whistler field by more than half a second.
"I can't quite believe it's real. It just feels like there's a bubble I've had ever since I had that last run. It's just amazing," said a jubilant Williams, a former 400m runner who is nicknamed Curly Wurly because of her frizzy hair.
The athlete, who is studying sports performance at the University of Bath, the home of the British Bob Skeleton Association, is the first British solo gold medallist since Robin Cousins skated to victory in Lake Placid in 1980, and the first women's gold medallist since 1952. However, her win was not without controversy, with both the United States and Canada protesting that ridges on Williams's helmet gave her an illegal advantage.
Williams endured a rigorous training regime, admitting this made her "a bit of a bore" socially. "I've done everything possible in my physical training, mental training, everything with my coaches, runners, every single, possible thing, my health, my diet," she told BBC Radio 5 Live. Williams had only one day off training a week and trained every day when out of the country between October and March.
Her parents, Jan, a former midwife, and Ian, a chemistry professor at the University of Bath, cheered her from the trackside while her twin sister, Ruth, and brother, Simon, tucked into champagne and hot dogs at her local pub, the Pulteney Arms, in Bath.Reuse content