Rosa Khutor, Russia: British World Cup skeleton champion and Sochi gold medal favourite Lizzy Yarnold said on Tuesday she was inspired to succeed by the exploits of heptathlete Denise Lewis.
Lewis won gold in the multi-discipline event at the Sydney 2000 Olympics and Yarnold is looking to match her feat at the 2014 Winter Games.
“I think I wanted to become an Olympian when I watched the 2000 Games when Denise Lewis competed in heptathlon,” she said.
“She had one arm in the beautiful GB sleeve and one arm just naked. And she looked magnificent. Top athlete and really strong woman.”
“I think I just wanted to emulate her and when I came to skeleton at 19 I’ve just loved everything about it and I wanted to get better and better,” she added.
“Now I’m an Olympian and that means the dream came true for me.”
But Yarnold — hoping to match the gold medal won by compatriot Amy Williams at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, said she did not feel under particular pressure at the Sochi Games.
“I don’t feel I’m under pressure here,” said the 25-year-old, who topped both of Tuesday’s practice runs.
“Today it was fun during the practice… and the chemistry was very positive but also lots of experiments.
“It’s a good, fun track and I am really enjoying everything here so far.”
Yarnold said she hoped her usual routine would take her to Olympic gold.
“I have really simple goals, not only at the Olympics but at any World Cup competition,” Yarnold said. “I just try to do my best at every single competition and training run.
“And I’m trying to be as good as I can when it comes to race day as the competition is very, very fierce and our group is very strong.”
Meanwhile, reigning US champion Jeremy Abbott warned on Tuesday that he would not let his shot at another Olympic medal slip.
Abbott, 28, stood on the podium with a bronze in the team event despite a disastrous short programme in which he placed just seventh in a 10-skater field.
Evan Lysacek, the reigning Olympic champion, has not competed since taking gold in Vancouver, so Abbott and national silver medallist Jason Brown are carrying US men’s hopes.
“It was an epic moment, the moment you dream about, getting an Olympic medal,” said the skater from Colorado, who placed just ninth at the Vancouver Games.
“I was extremely upset that I did that for my team. I wanted to pull out something big for them that we would have a good shot to do … what they did.
“I felt I let the team down but they’ve been very supportive.
“It was exactly what I needed. It’s rare in life that you get a second chance at things and I’m happy and pleased to get that.”
Abbott, said he had been thrown off by the rowdy enthusiasm of the Russian crowd for Yevgeny Plushenko who skated before him, but admitted the biggest difficulty had been finding a rhythm.
“It’s easy to lose a sense of time and structure in the Olympic Village,” he explained.
“It feels like summer camp, like Neverland. So now we are tightening strings to make sure everything works like a Swiss watch.”
Brown, one of the few men not to attempt a quadruple jump in competition, placed fourth in the team free programme.
“It was a good start to my Olympic experience. I was on the stand with seven champions,” he said of receiving his Olympic medal with his teammates.
Competing against Plushenko, 31, was a dream come true for the 19-year-old skater from Illinois.
“He came up to me and said he is a big fan of mine. I couldn’t believe it. He is a very relaxed person but he is also very focused when he is on the ice.
“It’s amazing to meet him on Russian soil.”