Last Saturday Lizzy Yarnold’s final blitzing run put the cherry on the cake for what was a phenomenal skeleton campaign from Team GB. Following from Dom Parson’s impressive bronze in the men’s event, the ladies were able to deliver the goods from Pyeongchang after hitting worryingly fast-times in their trial runs.
Yarnold was 0.02 seconds behind Austrian Janine Flock going into the last of her 4 runs as both her and fellow GB teammate Laura Deas flirted around the nail-bitingly tight medal places in 2nd and 4th respectively. Both had nerves of steel. Deas managed to push herself into bronze place whereas an inspired Lizzy Yarnold tore-apart the course record and cruised to the gold medal by a remarkable 0.45 seconds.
These medals marked a watershed moment for Great Britain at the Winter Olympics.
This was the first time GB had achieved two medals in one event, Yarnold became GB’s most decorated winter athlete, the first GB athlete to ever win back-to-back golds and incredibly the first skeleton athlete to ever retain that precious gold medal – it didn’t stop there for GB either. Issy Aitken’s bronze in the Women’s Slopestyle meant 17th February had become the most successful day for GB ever in the winter games, resulting in three medals.
The success story of Yarnold is likely to inspire the next generation of skeleton athletes. The dedication and talents of the GB skeleton medallists are unquestionable and they deserve to be reaping the rewards, however, it would be short-sighted to not look past the athletes for reasons for their success as questions regarding the GB skinsuits looms over Pyeongchang.
This is not a new phenomenon for Team GB. The technical team have been under fire previously regarding cycling and skeleton suits in recent years and this year is no different with fellow competitors in both the men and women’s skeleton having their doubts as GB whizzed down the trials with menacing pace. Strong claims were made, including former American World Champion, Katie Uhlaender, who believes the suits are illegal and give an unfair advantage.
Does Katie have a point?
Dom Parsons is 12th in the world rankings, while Deas and Yarnold rank 7th and 9th, yet as soon as the practice runs began, it became evident the GB riders had an added boost. Nevertheless, the suits were given the green-light from the IBSF as there were no violations evident on the suits.
GB have nearly doubled their investment for Pyeongyang compared to Sochi and their investment looks to be paying off. Even though other countries have had similar investment, no one has matched GB’s ability to cut the speed of their riders as they look to use any method to bring home medals.
It’s a sweet victory for GB with a dash of bitter; if GB had missed out on the medals to an incident such as this you’d have the right to feel aggrieved, so you can see where Uhlaender is coming from. It’s a shame this event has such a large variable to it; kudos to the technical team at GB, but for the future I’d call for tighter regulation in order for the speculation regarding equipment to be put to bed. The Olympics is about the athletes, and while you can’t blame Team GB for their innovation, you don’t want to see an event which ends up so reliant on cutting edge technology, like Formula 1.
By Tommy Joyce