Winter Olympics 2014: 'If we can connect and inspire people, job done', says Team GB's sole gold medal winner in Sochi Lizzy Yarnold

Stopping for pictures in central London and talent-spotting GB's next skeleton stars is all in a day's work for the gold medal winner

If you are between 18 and 25 with an athletic background, don't mind appearing on TV sofas at seven in the morning, hanging out in Parliament Square doing radio interviews, oh, and flying down ice gullies at nuclear speed, then pop along to the Sports Village at Bath University this spring, there could be an Olympic gold medal in it for you.

You might even get to meet the golden girl herself. Yes, Lizzy Yarnold, who made the same move five years ago to set in train a process that led to her stunning success in Sochi, hopes to check out some of the new prospects at the next phase of British skeleton's talent identification programme at dates to be announced next week. That ought to be motivation enough for any.

Yarnold returned from Sochi on Monday into the arms of her mother, Judith, and a string of media engagements, including breakfast television, illustrating how life for the nation's favourite daughter changed irrevocably at the Sanki Sliding Centre. Such is her giving nature, she views the demands on her time, which began last weekend with a mad round-trip from Sochi to London and back for 15 minutes on Jonathan Ross's settee, as an obligation she must meet, night or day.

"I had to take the opportunity to go on the show. It is great exposure for us Olympians to tell people about the sport in a slightly different light than a sporting context. I was staying between the Millennium Bridge and the London Eye. It was about 11.30am and I wandered along in very inconspicuous clothing with my medal tucked under my T-shirt, where it always is in case I lose it.

"A little girl came up to me and said, 'Excuse me, are you the Olympian Lizzy?' It was such a shock. I said, 'How on earth did you recognise me?' We stopped for a little chat. A few more people started coming towards me for a few more pictures. It does start to mean so much more when you realise that you have had an impact on their lives and that they have remembered you, that you won your race, gave it everything for GB. It was their win as well as mine.

"Later on I was getting picked up in Parliament Square and a French lady came over to me. Unfortunately I can't speak French. Her daughter translated. You realise it is not only children that it means something to, it's adults, too, and not just British. It's international. Signing autographs in the middle of London is new to me, but wonderful."

The memory of her first Olympic experience is etched indelibly, each nip and tuck, every twist and turn, every second lost and gained. "Coming into the four-run race is always challenging compared to the normal World Cup set-up. We had the overnight stay when I was in the 44 hundredths [0.44 sec ahead]. I always remember these numbers. I was desperate to keep improving my performance. I wasn't there only to win gold but to do myself justice, to give my best. Coming into the second day I just wanted to put in a really solid run. When the lead went to 78 hundredths I could start to relax a little bit."

So what does it take to do a Yarnold? To judge by the powerful, vascular outline of her neck and shoulders the gym is an obvious place to start. There is also an otherness about her, an earnest quality and sense of authority and commitment. If you don't have that, better to stay away.

"I missed my sister's birthday five years running," she said. "I made a lot of sacrifices. You can't get to the Olympics without giving it everything. Amy [Williams, who won Olympic skeleton gold in 2010] taught me early on that she was a normal person but that she never ever gave up and was so determined in every single training session. That's what you need to be Olympic champion. It doesn't happen when you get to the Games, it happens in the weeks, months and years leading up."

In the age of the £300,000-a-week footballer, the appeal of Lizzy Yarnold and her ilk is blindingly clear. They share the same ambitions, the same electric differences, the same freakish talent for their trade as the Übermenschen of the beautiful game, but come without that tiresome sense of entitlement or bombast.

"The Olympics is so very special," Yarnold said. "We receive Lottery funding so there is a connection with everyone who is buying a ticket. I couldn't train full-time without the British public. So I'm very proud of all the sportsmen and women who compete at the Olympics and if we can connect and inspire people to take up a sport regardless of what it is, then that is my job done."

See you all down there!

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
News
i100
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices