sport

Yarnold enjoying new found fame

Lizzy Yarnold claimed her place in the sporting pantheon high above the shores of the Black Sea.

"Lizzy the Olympian" realised she had arrived on the banks of the River Thames.

The farmer's daughter from Sevenoaks who took up heptathlon to mimic hero Denise Lewis first gripped a skeleton sled aged 19.

Less than six years later the fiercely-driven 25-year-old etched her name into British Olympic folklore with gold in Sochi 2014, to sit proudly alongside skeleton stars Amy Williams and Shelley Rudman.

Yarnold carried the flag for Team GB at Sochi's closing ceremony, and that after upholding the standard with Britain's sole gold medal.

But it was not until killing time by the London Eye before filming for the Jonathan Ross Show that she finally appreciated her newly-acquired status.

"I had half an hour free, I was staying near the Millennium Bridge, between that and the London Eye," said the skeleton Olympic champion.

"It was about 11.30 in the morning and I wandered along in very inconspicuous clothing, with the medal tucked under my T-shirt as it always is in case I lose it.

"And a little girl came up to me and said 'excuse me are you the Olympian Lizzy?'

"And it's such a shock because, how on earth did she recognise me?

"Of course I stopped for a picture, we had a little chat, I shook her hand and got to meet her, and then a few more people started to come towards me and have a few pictures.

"And then it does start to mean so much more, because you've had an impact, they've remembered you and that you've won the race, you gave everything and you won it for GB, that it was their win as much as it was mine.

"Signing autographs in the middle of London is all new to me, but it's wonderful."

A face in the crowd when Greg Rutherford struck gold on Super Saturday in London 2012, Yarnold shed a tear at the long jumper's triumph on a famous night for British sport.

Rutherford has since revealed he is intrigued by the skeleton, hailing Yarnold's success.

And she admitted to being humbled by the company she can now keep.

"He's been saying that for a few years!" joked Yarnold of Rutherford's musings on swapping long jump for the skeleton.

"He's a great athlete. I was there on Super Saturday for his gold. I love the long jump, it was one of my favourite events as a heptathlete.

"So I was shedding a tear when he won his event.

"So it's actually very, very special to hear someone I admire say the same back to me.

"I can't really remember watching the Olympics before seeing Denise Lewis, I think I was at the right age for it to make a massive impact.

"In the javelin she had a beautiful one-armed sleeve.

"Afterwards I read her autobiography, and to hear she was an injured athlete, in pain but still coming out to compete, a strong, powerful, independent woman, there to give everything for GB, to understand the whole story, it was a great motivation to think 'she can do it, I can give it a go'.

"And then when I was 19 I found the skeleton, and it gave me an opportunity to compete for my country as I never had before.

"And it's been a bit of a whirlwind over the past few years.

"To think that I could be viewed as I will always think of Denise Lewis and many other exceptional Olympic females, it's really wonderful."