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!

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape