Yarnold: I don't feel the pressure
Lizzy Yarnold stands two more slides away from Olympic skeleton gold having fashioned a lead of almost half a second over her nearest rivals.
The Kent 25-year-old held a slender lead of just 0.05 seconds over Russia's Elena Nikitina after the first run, despite nailing a new track record of 58.43secs.
But when Nikitina faltered in the second half of her second run Yarnold took full advantage, a marginally slower run of 58.46secs giving her an overnight lead of 0.44secs over American Noelle Pikus-Pace, who moved up to second.
Yarnold's advantage is greater than the 0.3secs lead held by Amy Williams at the halfway point of the equivalent competition in Vancouver four years ago, which she went on to win.
Yarnold said: "I don't feel the pressure and I have not been thinking about other people's expectations at all.
"I have such high expectations of myself anyway that I just want to get better and better as an athlete."
Yarnold pronounced herself "very happy" with her first two runs, but added: "You'll never have a perfect run and it is about knowing how to react and being a very fast-thinking athlete.
"I will go back tonight and do my stretching and eat lots of good food and do the normal athlete thing and try to improve it again tomorrow."
Yarnold's Great Britain team-mate, Turin silver medallist Shelley Rudman, struggled with the technical Sochi track and finished her two runs a full 1.90secs behind Yarnold in 11th place.
Pikus-Pace, who shared eight race wins with Yarnold over the regular World Cup season, slid first but was immediately eclipsed by Yarnold, who finished with a full quarter-second advantage over the American.
But Russian Nikitina, who finished second in a World Cup race in Calgary earlier this season, enjoyed a blistering first run to finish just 0.05secs behind Yarnold in second place.
The home favourite looked equally dangerous in the first half of the second run but made one mistake and slipped back behind Pikus-Pace, before Yarnold kept her nerve to increase her lead with the last slide of the day.
The Russian team were later the subject of a protest from Australia, who alleged the Russians' exclusive use of a push-start facility close to the Olympic site contravened regulations. The protest was thrown out by the race jury.