Sport on TV: Lizzy Yarnold is changing the face – and the body – of Britain

 

There were some very loud early mornings thanks to the BBC’s Winter Olympics team this past week. There’s been a lot of lying down in the luge and skeleton, if not in the bedrooms of Britain, but you can’t get jealous – you would be hard-pressed to get much sleep on those contraptions. By Thursday, presenter Hazel Irvine was telling us: “It could be time to take a later train, or even a much later one.” But not so we could have a lie-in, unfortunately. No one told her the trains weren’t running anyway.

Jennie Jones’ slopestyle snowboarding bronze a week ago created consternation in the Sunday morning shires as the Beeb was flooded with complaints about the hysterical histrionics of the commentators. And yet for all the whooping and hollering of the slopestylers, their interviews could be conducted in sign language, such is the rich array of hand signals they use – and given their inability to say anything more meaningful than “it was absolutely insane”.

So after all that twisting and shouting, it came as a relief to watch something much more normal: women hurtling down tunnels headfirst on tea trays. Skeleton really is our favourite winter sport these days (let’s face it, curling is not quite so exciting).

Lizzy Yarnold has been busy championing a new breed of British sporting woman, giving unfettered hope to all those for whom the idea of squeezing into an all-in-one lycra suit is a bit of a no-no. “Lizzy’s got a lot of weight behind her, a big, heavy girl,” said Amy Williams, who won the gold in the skeleton four years ago and who now happens to be her landlady. Presumably she gives Yarnold an extra sausage for breakfast (though does she serve up afternoon tea on the actual tea tray?)

Anyway, it’s ironic that the modern exponents of skeleton actually require more flesh on the bone. Indeed, the American Katie Uhlaender tried to qualify for London 2012 as a weightlifter. It is a modern phenomenon – Williams was some 20kg lighter than Yarnold in 2010 – and it gets the girls down the hill quicker. So long as you don’t bulk up so much that you get stuck halfway down the tube.

But the Kentish farmer’s daughter also seems to be ushering in a new breed of Briton, not just British woman. Like all those screaming slopestylers, she betrays some decidedly un-British characteristics, such as a complete confidence in her own ability. She wrote a dissertation at university about mental toughness and Williams admitted: “She’s got something inside her. She’s made up a little bit different in the head.”

Yarnold even taught herself how to say  “I am the champion” in Russian. Clare Balding was flabbergasted: “You hardly ever hear an athlete say that, let alone a female athlete.” Such supreme assurance is remarkable for a Brit. But learning another language? Now that really is outrageous.

It’s been a funny old week for Elize Christie. Before she was disqualified from the medal rostrum in the 500m short-track final, commentator Hugh Porter had said: “There will be no charitable handouts here, believe me,” anticipating a bit of argy-bargy. What ensued was more of a mugging as she knocked down two of her competitors.

Still, you can make a living out of that sort of thing, and not just by snatching all the change that falls out of their pockets. The Australian Steven Bradbury, who famously won gold when all the other racers fell over in 2002, revealed on the first edition of Alan Davies’ Après Ski (BBC1, Friday) that he now does “motivational speaking” off the back of it. He admitted, however, “that’s not very Australian, is it? Let’s call it corporate entertainment”. It seems the only ice he encounters these days is the stuff in his drinks.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Nick Clegg on the campaign trail in Glasgow on Wednesday; he says education is his top priority
peopleNick Clegg remains optimistic despite dismal Lib Dem poll ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Déjà vu: David Tennant returns to familiar territory with Anna Gunn (‘Breaking Bad’)
tvReview: Something is missing in Gracepoint, and it's not just the familiar names
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?