Former riders in the running for medals at Winter Olympics

  • Two former riders are among Britain’s top medal hopes at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

    Lizzy Yarnold and Laura Deas have both swapped horses for sleds and are among the favourites heading into the skeleton at the Pyeongchang Games in South Korea.

    The pair have posted strong times in training and will take their first and second runs at 11.20am tomorrow (Friday) UK time, and their third and fourth runs at the same time on Saturday morning.

    Lizzy, who won gold at Sochi 2014, was a keen rider before she discovered skeleton.

    She took part in the Girls4Gold talent finding scheme aged 19.

    The initiative opened in 2008 with the aim of finding women who had the potential to win Olympic medals in modern pentathlon, bob skeleton, canoeing, rowing and sailing.

    Lizzy, now aged 29, was hoping to be selected for the modern pentathlon scheme, but found she was a better fit for the skeleton.

    Meanwhile Olympic debutante Laura, who also came into the sport through the Girls4Gold talent route, has evented up to CCI2* in the past.

    The 29-year-old told BBC Sport’s Nick Hope that she had “never been in a gym” before taking up the skeleton.

    It was a massive shock for my body — the focus became different because when I was a rider it was much more about how does the horse feel, how are they moving, what’s happening underneath me,” she said.

    “Then all of a sudden it was all about how am I feeling, what am I doing — in a way there’s a lot of parallels as well because that sort of sensitivity with what is happening underneath you, having to plan a route, think quickly, all of those things transfer really well.

    “So in some ways I think it was quite a good crossover.”

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    The sport is not for the fainthearted — athletes ride a small sled, known as a skeleton, headfirst down a frozen track at speeds of around 80mph.

    Laura said fellow Brit Amy Williams’ gold medal at Vancouver 2010 is one of her biggest inspirations.

    “I remember this really powerful feeling of thinking ‘wow, I’m in the same programme as this athlete who is currently leading at the Olympics — if she can do it then I know that I can as well’,” she told the BBC.

    “I’ve always carried that with me and the fact that Lizzy went on to do the same thing as well really reinforced that — it’s a really exciting time.

    I definitely feel that I can go and win a medal. I know I have beaten every single person in that field so I know that if things go right and I bring my A game, I know I can be on the podium.”

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