Yarnold focus is on defending Olympic title

Defending Olympic champion Lizzy Yarnold insists she will be gunning for gold at the Winter Games in Pyeongchang despite her recent World Cup skeleton setback.

Bath’s Yarnold, the 29-year-old who stormed to Olympic glory in Sochi four years ago, endured another frustrating day in Innsbruck last week after finishing only 16th.

It marked the third consecutive race in which Yarnold has failed to finish inside the top ten with the Winter Olympics now less than two months away.

But Yarnold, who is bidding to make history by becoming the first athlete to defend their skeleton Olympic title, is confident she can turn the form book on its head.

“Every race that I go into, I am going there with an unabashed view of wanting to win,” she said. “There is complete self-belief in doing my very best and going for victory.

“It is difficult to predict how every competition will unfold, and you cannot reflect on form just by looking at past results. Every track is different and you cannot compare one race to another.

“Of course, I would love to have won every race up until this point, but sport is sport, and anything can happen.

“The World Cup circuit is the only time we have on ice over the winter, so there is an element of learning and getting back into it. My main focus, and my main goal, is Pyeongchang.”

Yarnold found stardom in Sochi after dominating the skeleton from start to finish before completing a career grand slam with European and world titles the following year. But her recent form suggests she will arrive in South Korea on the back foot.

“I am in a lucky position that I am the Olympic champion, and I am always surprised when people ask if it brings added pressure because it certainly doesn’t,” she added.

“There is no more pressure from anyone else than I put on myself. Although I do really enjoy sport, I expect a lot from myself and the best I can do on the day – whether that is win or lose – is making sure I perform and do myself justice.”

Great Britain has won a medal in each of the four women’s skeleton events staged at the Olympics, and Wales’ Laura Deas is poised to rival Yarnold in Pyeongchang.

Deas, the same age as Yarnold, missed out on a European medal at the latest World Cup after Russian Elena Nikitina, who has been banned from the Olympics, won the event.

“I want to be competing on a level playing field and it is frustrating to know, that with evidence, it is not the case at the moment,” Deas said.

“The main frustration for athletes is how long it is taking to get to the final decision from the governing body, but I am confident we will get the right result.

“It is affecting what I am achieving, but I am mindful of the bigger goal. By the time we come to Pyeongchang I know that these things will be resolved.

“As long as I look at the bigger picture, in a sense none of this matters, because it will not be an issue when I get to the Games.”

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.