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GB’s Yarnold makes Winter Olympic history

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Lizzy Yarnold defends her Olympic skeleton title
XXIII Olympic Winter Games
Venue: Pyeongchang, South Korea Dates: 9-25 February
Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, Red Button, Connected TVs, BBC Sport website and mobile app. Full coverage times

Lizzy Yarnold retained her skeleton title and Laura Deas claimed bronze on Great Britain’s most successful day at a Winter Olympics.

It took the British medal count on Saturday to three, after Izzy Atkin claimed a ski slopestyle bronze.

But short-track speed skating medal hope Elise Christie fell in the 1500m.

GB’s Yarnold makes Winter Olympic history
GB’s Yarnold makes Winter Olympic history

Yarnold, 29, having won gold at Sochi 2014, becomes the first Briton to retain a Winter Games title and also the first skeleton athlete to do so.

“Honestly, after the last few years the aim was to get to the Olympics, I wasn’t thinking about medals,” Yarnold told BBC Radio 5 live.

“But to achieve that is the stuff of dreams, as is sharing the podium with Laura, who’s been amazing.”

Yarnold headed into the final run 0.02 seconds behind leader Janine Flock, but a poor finish from the Austrian saw her drop out of the medal places.

Deas, from Wrexham, jumped into bronze and Germany’s Jacqueline Loelling took silver, 0.45 seconds behind Yarnold as she set a track record to become Britain’s most decorated Winter Olympian.

Only figure skater Jeannette Altwegg and skating pair Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, who have one gold medal and one bronze each, also have multiple medals for Britain.

It is the first time Britain have won three individuals medals on one day at a Winter Games – eclipsing the two won in 1924.

It comes a day after Dom Parsons won bronze in the men’s skeleton for GB’s first medal of the 2018 Games. UK Sport has set the team a record target of at least five medals from these Games.

The British team have now matched their record medal tally of four, set in Sochi four years ago and in France in 1924.

But that total could well be surpassed with Britain holding medal aspirations in several events, including Christie in the 1,000m should the 27-year-old Scot recover in time.

James Woods competes in the ski slopestyle on Sunday, while there are also hopes for the women’s curlers, men’s four-man bobsleigh and snowboard big air, among others.

Medal table

‘I was feeling awful, I couldn’t breath’

Since winning gold four years ago, Yarnold has struggled with a back problem and a debilitating vestibular condition leading to extreme motion sickness.

After taking a year out of the sport to combat exhaustion, she claimed World Championship bronze last season but had not won a race since her return.

“It means so much to me,” she added.

“At times over the last four years it’s been so hard and I’ve doubted myself and wondered whether I could get back to where I wanted to be, but the team never lost faith and that’s why I’m back here on the podium.”

But her gold medal-winning performance almost did not happen, with Yarnold saying she considered pulling out of the event on Saturday night.

“I was feeling awful and I couldn’t breath with this chest problem,” she said. “It was the team who gave me the belief I could carry on.”

Asked whether she would compete in one more Games, Yarnold added: “I think I need another break and some time to decide.”

Five things you may not know about Lizzy Yarnold:

  • Yarnold’s sled is called Mervyn, after a former work colleague who sponsored her when she needed money to continue competing.
  • She hoped to become a modern pentathlete, before being ‘talented identified’ and encouraged to take up skeleton.
  • Yarnold often listens to grime music before her races. She listened to Dizzee Rascal moments before her first Olympic triumph in 2014.
  • The 29-year-old’s hobbies are knitting and listening to The Archers.
  • Yarnold is known by other members of the British skeleton squad as ‘She-Ra’ – a cartoon character who is the Princess of Power.

‘I thought it would be snatched away’

Deas was in fourth place as third-heat leader Flock geared up for her final run, and says it was a nervy few moments before the Austrian faltered.

“I just can’t believe it’s happening,” said the 29-year-old. “It’s like a dream. I thought it would be snatched away at the last minute.

“I’m so pleased for Lizzy too. It was a nice position to be in – chasing the pack going into today. I always knew consistency would win.

“I almost couldn’t feel my legs because I was so nervous. I didn’t think I’d done enough. The further Janine Flock came down the track, I thought ‘oh, maybe’.

“I think I have done myself proud. I always knew four consistent runs would put me in a strong position so I just wanted to do that from the start.”

Atkin earns GB second medal in Pyeongchang

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‘Sensational’ – Izzy Atkin wins bronze in the women’s slopestyle

Atkin, born in the United States, scored 84.60 on a strong final run to claim a first British Winter Olympic medal on skis.

The bronze means Great Britain have now won medals on snow at consecutive Winter Games, following Jenny Jones’ slopestyle bronze in Sochi in 2014.

This, however, was the first time they had won a medal on skis. Scot Alain Baxter finished third in the slalom at the 2002 Games, but was stripped of his bronze after a positive drugs test.

On her Olympic debut, Atkin was in bronze medal position going into the third and final run but she was pushed down into fourth by American Maggie Voisin.

The Briton responded shortly after with her cleanest run of the competition to regain third place and none of the final three skiers could better her effort.

Switzerland’s Sarah Hoefflin won gold with a score of 91.20 and compatriot Mathilde Gremaud took silver. Another Briton Katie Summerhayes finished seventh.

“I knew I’d skied the best I could and I was just waiting for the last girls to drop,” Atkin said. “My heart was racing and I couldn’t believe it.”

The teenager, who won a World Cup gold and world championship silver last year, lives in Park City in Utah but has a British father.

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Winter Olympics: This is going to hurt for a while – GB’s Katie Summerhayes

‘I was throwing my guts up’

Atkin has British and Malaysian parents but was persuaded to compete for Britain by Park and Pipe ski head coach Pat Sharples, who was aware of her dual nationality.

“She’s been the dark horse, the little quiet girl who has come from behind and this is just the start of her career,” he said.

“I knew they would have to put down big runs but I had just drunk loads of water and I just couldn’t handle it all. I was throwing my guts up.”

Analysis – ‘GB will go from strength to strength’

Jenny Jones, 2014 GB Olympic bronze medallist snowboarder

It’s the first ever Olympic medal for the freestyle skiers and everyone in the team was watching with nerves. That will give so much confidence to James Woods ahead of his event tomorrow.

We have both a ski and a snowboard medal now and we’re just going from strength to strength in freestyle.

This is Izzy’s first Olympics, she’s got at least one or two, maybe three, more Olympics in her.

medal funding
Great Britain’s record haul comes on the back of funding from UK Sport that was significantly up on the Sochi Games cycle

Saturday’s gold medal winners

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Winter Olympics 2018: Snowboard specialist Ester Ledecka shocks rivals to win super G gold

Britain’s women curlers claim third win

Team GB’s women’s curlers beat Denmark 7-6, only to lose 7-4 to South Korea in the afternoon session.

The men’s hopes of making the semi-finals were dented after an 11-5 defeat by the host nation.

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Highlights: GB’s women beats Denmark in curling

Other Games news on day eight

  • The Jamaican women’s bobsleigh team will be able to compete in their preferred sled after a beer producer purchased the craft and donated it to the nation’s federation.
  • Artist Marc Ahr says he used vodka to stop his paint freezing while capturing the Winter Olympics opening ceremony last week. “I put the vodka in my water colours so it doesn’t freeze,” he said. “It’s nice, it gives it a marble effect.”

BBC coverage

The Games Today

19:15-20:15 – Today at the Games

17:30-00:00, BBC Red Button (replays)

Olympics Extra

20:00-21:00, BBC Four and online

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