Lizzy Yarnold is determined to use the attention that accompanies winning an Olympic gold to promote the cause of women in sport and encourage girls “not to worry about the media image of the perfect woman”.
Yarnold collected her gold medal on Saturday evening, for only the fifth individual win by a Briton at a Winter Olympics. She has ambitions to become the first Briton to defend a Winter Games title successfully in Pyeongchang in 2018, but before that she wants to promote a cause she believes in passionately.
“There are so many strong women in sport,” said Yarnold. “I just hope we can get more publicity, get in the papers more, get more sport on TV. The cricketers are very strong in Britain, the footballers are great athletes. I intend to go into as many schools as I can to tell them to get involved in sport. It doesn’t have to be skeleton, it could be just at lunchtimes or after school. It’s about being a strong role model, being athletic and being proud of who you are – not worrying about what the media image is of the perfect woman. It’s about being you and being proud and confident about who you are.
“There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with the gold medal. I understand that. It was always my aim to go into schools and inspire them and to say, ‘You can do it; whether it’s arts or music or sport, you’ve got to follow your dream and dedicate a lot of time’.”
Yarnold, who began in athletics before being talent-spotted for the skeleton, got her sporting inspiration from Denise Lewis and a visit to her school by the Olympic javelin-thrower Goldie Sayers.
“I was at the right age when [Denise Lewis] won gold,” said Yarnold. “It was the right moment [in my life] where you could say, ‘You can choose this career path. You can be an athlete full-time if you dedicate yourself. You can win Olympic gold if you work hard enough’.”