Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Head banger Yarnold in the zone for gold

Going for gold: Britain's Lizzy Yarnold is favourite in the skeleton

Some people think she's bonkers, but when grime music aficionado Lizzy Yarnold flings herself head-first down an ice chute in Rosa Khutor at speeds of up to 90mph today, she will be out to prove there is nothing crazy about her career-long pursuit of Winter Olympic glory.

Ten minutes prior to the start of each of the four runs she hopes will slide her into the position to claim a fourth consecutive Winter Games skeleton medal for Great Britain, Yarnold will strap on her headphones and zone out to the kind of motivational playlist which seems scarcely befitting of a well-spoken former grammar school girl from leafy Kent.

Dizzee Rascal, Giggs and Wiley – whose discography includes his appropriately titled debut album 'Treddin' On Thin Ice' – are among the artists who will help her achieve the mindset required to live up to her billing as Great Britain's strongest gold medal hope since Torvill and Dean scored their string of perfect sixes in Sarajevo.

Dominant throughout this Olympic season, in which she shared eight World Cup wins with American rival Noelle Pikus-Pace, and fastest in four of her five official training runs this week down the Sanki Sliding Center track, Yarnold's mental strength has played a significant role in her dramatic rise to prominence.

Yarnold said: "There is no greater pressure than the pressure I put on myself, but I have found out things like if you breathe deeply and listen to music, it can keep you calm and control your nerves.

"I listen to a lot of grime music. The big beats really get me going then, about five minutes before I do my first run, I will take my earphones out and really try to tune in to the environment, so that all my senses are totally focused on being ready to go down."

Eve Muirhead defended the final-stone gamble which backfired on her and condemned Great Britain to a 9-6 defeat against Canada, insisting she would do the same again.

Britain trailed 8-6 going into the 10th and final end and, with Britain holding one stone, skip Muirhead had the option of rolling the final stone into the house to square the match at 8-8 and take it into an 11th end.

Instead she went for outright victory by bidding to remove three Canadian stones and the high risk strategy did not pay off.

Muirhead insisted afterwards that she had no regrets.

"I would go for it again for sure," she said. "I don't go for shots I don't think are there and I definitely thought it was there.

"The angles were all sitting there nice. The clock was running down a little bit and it was a quick 'look, that's there'.

"It was a high quality game that could have gone either way.

Despite GB losing two of their first three games, Muirhead remains relaxed about the prospect of qualifying from the round-robin stage of the competition by booking a top-four spot from their remaining six matches.

Dominique Gisin and Tina Maze made Winter Olympics history in the women's downhill as they shared the gold medal in Sochi.

Switzerland's Gisin and Slovenian Maze both recorded a time of one minute, 41.57 seconds at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center to become the first athletes to share the top of the podium in the Winter Games. Another Swiss, Laura Gut, won bronze.

Britain's Chemmy Alcott claimed 19th place but after the third leg break of her career, she insisted: "To come to my fourth Olympics, 19th is a gold for me.

"Anyone who's followed what I've been through will understand that."

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