Winter Olympics 2014: Lizzy Yarnold closing in on skeleton gold for Great Britain in Sochi

The 25-year-old edges closer to winning gold today with two runs left

Sochi

Lizzy Yarnold begins the final two runs of the skeleton today, and looks destined to be crowned the winner of the event by 5.30pm this evening.

The 25-year-old Kent slider holds a 0.44sec advantage over American rival Noelle Pikus-Pace, and the British world No 1 is in the form of her life, having won the World Cup last month.

Yarnold will begin the final two runs of the skeleton with the lead over Pikus-Pace. It stretches beyond half a second over Elena Nikitina. In the world of skeleton those are big differences — especially as the Russian finished the first run yesterday 0.05sec short of Yarnold’s benchmark. Yet the world of skeleton is also one where a small slip can have disastrous consequences.

“It is sport,” said Nikitina. “Anything can happen.”

Nikitina’s first run yesterday showed what can happen. The performance of the 21-year-old from Moscow was remarkable. She came 15th at the last world championships — won by Shelley Rudman, who is destined to finish outside the medals here — but has set up camp at Sanki and it showed. So too did her raw power. She was the only woman to go quicker than Yarnold through any of the time checks. On both runs she was the fastest starter but then slowed — if she can maintain her pace then she could threaten.

Anyone who watched any London 2012 event outside the swimming pool knows that home advantage can help athletes achieve the incredible.

Nevertheless Yarnold, the daughter of a farmer whose first sporting love was athletics, should become the Olympic champion. Much will depend on how she deals with a very different pressure.

“I haven’t been thinking about other people’s expectations at all,” said Yarnold. “I think I have such high expectations for myself.”

 

There is reason beyond what it says on the scoreboard to believe Yarnold will complete the two runs with a lead intact. Nobody has ever gone faster than the 78.8mph she recorded on her second run down the world’s longest skeleton course.

She will be watched by her parents, friends and other family; the happy band she likes to call the Yarny Army. Most of them are sporting T-shirts with Yarnold’s face plastered across them and the face of this single-minded young woman, who turned up at a talent spotting contest run by UK Sport five years ago fancying her chances as a modern pentathlete, is likely to become recognised by a much wider audience should things turn out as expected.

But should she need a reminder of how thin the dividing line between gold — and anything less now would be a disappointment — then she only need look to the woman who will proceed her on to the track.

Four years ago Pikus-Pace, who missed the 2006 Games after being hit by a bobsleigh, seemed a sure thing for a medal ahead of the fourth and final run. The 31-year-old made one mistake and it slipped quickly from her grasp.

Rudman, the other Briton in the 20-strong field, lies 11th. The silver medal winner in Turin eight years ago has not had a good week and is nearly one and a half seconds short of the medal positions.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy