Williams win is a 'ray of sunshine'

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The Independent Online

Family and friends of Britain's latest Olympic hero were today celebrating her success back at home, along with other sports stars. Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe called her win "a big ray of sunshine".

Amy Williams' twin sister Ruth and brother Simon were amongst a crowd watching the skeleton bob action in Vancouver, Canada from her local, The Pulteney Arms in Bath yesterday.

Landlord Martin Cooper said about 60 people turned up for champagne and hot dogs.

"They were going to watch at home and then decided to group together and that home wasn't big enough," he said.

"It's absolutely amazing for her. Everyone dreams of being a sportsperson.

"To actually go to the Olympics is amazing but to win is incredible for her and her family.

"I'm sure she will be delighted. She is a lovely person."

Sports minister Sutcliffe said: "The first British individual gold medal at the Winter Olympics for 30 years is an outstanding achievement for Amy Williams, Team GB, and all those in her sport and behind the scenes who have contributed to the win.

"In the dark and chilly days of a British winter, this is a big ray of sunshine.

"I hope it will inspire many young men and women to want to follow her example and aim to become Olympic stars of the future.

"Lottery funding, and the backing of UK Sport and the English Institute of Sport, has been a big factor in Amy's win and I hope this fantastic result will encourage more people to have a go at winter sports."

Team GB chef de mission Andy Hunt, looking ahead to the team's remaining medal prospects, said: "We're not finished yet, I really hope we haven't.

"It has been a fantastic night, fantastic for Amy, fantastic for Team GB and for the country. A gold is truly, truly exceptional.

"We've still got some more opportunities. Our bobsleigh men and women are in good form, so there should be some good performances there and then on to short track and Jon Eley in the 500 metres and the curling, where we've had a great day again today."

Pre-Games Hunt had said that matching the silver medal won in Turin by Shelley Rudman would represent a success in Vancouver and that anything above that would be a bonus.

Now he hopes Williams' stunning gold medal success, even if it is not followed up by other medals later in the Games, can bring about a new era in Winter Olympic sports for Britain.

"Of course we want to build on the medal tally but we have achieved what we wanted to do. This a catalyst for a real uplift in focus and funding and perhaps a performance approach into winter sports."

Five-time Olympic gold medallist Sir Steve Redgrave added: "Fantastic, really, really impressive. Her consistency was just incredible.

"That's what this sport is all about. Doing it well once and having the bottle to hold onto it. She's certainly got that bottle.

"Because we've had recent history of good success in bob-skeleton it means there was immense pressure coming in.

"As (Canadian gold medal hope Mellisa) Hollingsworth found out, being the favourite, World Cup leader, to do it on the Olympic stage is sometimes very tough to do."

Asked what impact Williams' gold would have on the rest of the British team, Redgrave added: "It's a huge boost.

"All the British athletes in the village were buzzing that we were going to get a medal here and for that medal to be a gold one is very, very impressive.

"They're going to be thrilled but they're also going to be thinking, 'well, why can't I do that?'

"We've got a couple more chances but it was much needed for morale."