Lizzy Yarnold claimed Great Britain’s first gold medal of the Sochi Games on Friday when the ice-cool 25-year-old won the women’s skeleton.
Yarnold took up the sport only five years ago when she was chosen in a nationwide ‘Girls4Gold’ talent search and although she admits to initially wanting to be chosen for the modern pentathlon program she hasn’t looked back since taking up skeleton.
This year she became World Cup champion for the first time and on Friday cemented her status as the best in the business by becoming Olympic champion.
It is the second Olympic skeleton title in a row for Great Britain after Amy Williams won gold in Vancouver 2010.
Yarnold set a course record in the third of her four heats and although her final run was far from perfect she had already built up a sizeable lead to hold off the field.
She took victory by 0.97 seconds (a large margin in this sport) over 31-year-old American Noelle Pikus-Pace who secured silver in her final slide of her career while Russian Elena Nikitina thrilled the home support with bronze.
Her achievement continues Britain’s fine display in the event.
British women have won skeleton medals at every Games since their event was introduced to the Olympic programme in 2002 in Salt Lake City.
Viletta springs a surprise
In alpine skiing Sandro Viletta created the surprise of the day when he won the super combined.
The 28-year-old Swiss had previously won only one race on the World Cup circuit and a bronze medal at 2006 Junior world championship.
Sandro was in 14th position 1.64 seconds behind leader Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud after the downhill, but produced a superb slalom run to celebrate his first major title and hand Switzerland their first Olympic gold in the discipline.
Slalom specialist Ivica Kostelic of Croatia was 0.4 behind as he had to settle for Olympic silver for the fourth time in his career.
Italy’s Christof Innerhofer claimed the bronze medal.
Aftrer crucial mistakes in both the downhill and slalom, defending Olympic champion Bode Miller finished with sixth.
Cologna wins second gold
Dario Cologna won his second gold medal of the Sochi games on Friday to continue his fine showing in Russia.
The Swiss dominated the field to win the 15 kilometre cross-country classic.
The 27-year-old, who had only just recovered from surgery on his ankle in November, also won last Sunday’s skiathlon.
In spring-like conditions Cologna crossed over 28.5 seconds clear of Sweden’s Johan Olsson while another Swede Daniel Richardsson finished third.
Norway continued to suffer in one of their specialist sports. Chris Andre Jespersen was their best finisher in sixth as two-time Olympic champion Petter Northug skipped the race.
Domracheva dominates again
Darya Domracheva was again on top of the Sochi podium when she won the women’s biathlon 15 kilometre individual to add to her pursuit title she won on Tuesday.
Despite being penalized one minute for one missed target the Belarusian was in devastating form on the skis leaving her opponents no chance.
She covered the course a whopping one minute and 15 seconds clear of Swiss Selina Gasparin, who shot clean, but had to settle for silver.
The Belarusian fans were celebrating again moments later when Nadezhda Skardino crossed over for Bronze.
Norwegian Tora Berger, who entered the race as defending champion, missed three targets and finished over four minutes back in 16th place.
Hanyu stumbles to gold
Men’s figure skating competition was completed late on Friday night.
After the shock withdrawal of Russian star Evgeni Plushenko winner of the Grand Prix Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan and world champion Patrick Chan from Canada were overwhelming favourites.
Well despite a fall and a stumble it was 19 -year-old Hanyu who took top honours to become Asia’s first Olympic figure skating champion – winning both the short and free programs.
Chan, whose performance on the second day featured three errors had to be content with silver.
Kazakh Denis Ten was the surprise package of the night when he jumped up from 9th after the short into the bronze medal position.
Current European champion Javier Fernandez of Spain was fourth.
A golden day for Switzerland
Switzerland’s two golds on the day moved them up to second in the medals table behind leaders Germany who have seven gold, two silver and one bronze.
Canada – who topped the charts in Vancouver four years ago with a record 14 gold – are third (4, 5, 2).
Yarnold added the right kind of colour to Britain’s tally with her Skeleton gold. Team GB are 15th with one gold and a bronze from snowboarder Jenny Jones.