Olympics-Skeleton-Yarnold soaking up first Olympic experience


By Justin Palmer

ROSA KHUTOR, Russia, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Women's skeleton favourite Lizzy Yarnold is determined to have fun at her first Olympics, although her focus on delivering another gold for Britain will not waver.

After taking up the sport little over four years ago, the 25-year-old has made steady progress and goes into these Games as the slider to beat having secured a first World Cup title last month.

Yarnold was fastest on the second day of unofficial practice on Saturday but said there was plenty of room for improvement before the competition starts on Thursday.

"I really, really enjoy this track, I'm still working out a lot of the lines... there is still a lot of work to be done," she told Reuters before packing away her sled, climbing into a truck and dashing back up to the start.

"I'm quite glad there are six official practice runs.

"For me its all about enjoying myself - it's still my first Olympics, so I'm soaking up all the atmosphere."

British women have won skeleton medals at the last three Games - Alex Coomber's bronze in Salt Lake, Shelley Rudman's silver in Turin and Amy Williams's gold in Vancouver.

A former heptathlete who achieved county, regional and national medals, Yarnold has flourished since being introduced to skeleton through a Girls4Gold talent search and was chosen to go to a training camp.

She won the world junior title in 2012, took a world senior bronze in the same year and last year placed fourth.

But her performances on the World Cup circuit this season - winning four of eight races and missing the podium just once in capturing the overall title, have catapulted Yarnold to the top of the skeleton tree.

"I've always been such a driven athlete, really since the age of 13," she said.

"My parents were amazing, taking me halfway around the country five days a week for training. I went to grammar school - I'd finish at 3.30 and then go to the track, do my heptathlon training."

With expectations high, Yarnold is keeping her emotions firmly in check.

"I've always had high expectations of myself, it's always about trying to be better as an athlete.

"I'm just here trying to better myself. Every single run I'm competing against the track and myself and no one puts more pressure on an athlete than they put on themselves. I'll give it everything - but I'm here to have fun as well." (Editing by Ed Osmond)

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