Swapping horses for sleds: 9 reasons to cheer for Great Britain’s skeleton hopefuls

  • Clare Balding is on the television, competitors are making their final preparations, adrenaline is running high — no it’s not Badminton (yet), it’s the Winter Olympics. With former riders Lizzy Yarnold and Laura Deas aiming for skeleton glory at 11.20am (UK time) this Friday and Saturday, here’s nine reasons why every rider should be cheering them on…

    1. They are both former riders: Lizzy Yarnold was a keen equestrian while Laura Deas has evented up to CCI2*

    2. Their sport more than ticks the “adrenaline rush” button that riders crave: sliding at 80mph down an icy track headfirst on a tea tray — that must be some buzz

    3. Both ladies came into the sport through the Girls4Gold talent route

    4. Laura said her mum applied for her and “she reluctantly went along”. “At best, it was a bit of a distraction from riding,” she told the Evening Standard. But Laura quickly caught the skeleton bug and the rest is history

    5. There’s more similarities to riding and sliding than you may think — “In a way there’s a lot of parallels,” Laura told the BBC. “That sort of sensitivity with what is happening underneath you, having to plan a route, think quickly, all of those things transfer really well.”

    6. Laura is also a former Pony Club tetrathlete — tetrathlon is the Pony Club’s version of modern pentathlon and involved riding, running, shooting and swimming. She captained Wales at the national championships

    7. With her equestrian and sporty background, Lizzy had hoped to be chosen for the modern pentathlon programme, but skeleton was found to be her best fit

    8. Britain is really good at skeleton — Amy Williams won gold at Vancouver 2010, Lizzy won gold at Sochi 2014 and both Laura and Lizzy have posted some of the fastest practice times in Pyeongchang.

    9. Team spirit is all — whether it is horses or ice — “It’s really nice to have somebody with you on the circuit who understands everything you are going through,” Laura told the BBC. “You have a tough gym session together or a tough day at the track together there’s always somebody you can go and have a cup of tea together and talk about it.”

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