The Courier

Yarnold still pondering over skeleton future

Lizzy Yarnold, Great Britain’s most successful Winter Olympian, will return to training before considering if she will still slide head first down a mountain at 80mph for a career.

Yarnold became the first Briton to retain a Winter Olympics title when she claimed skeleton gold in Pyeongchang in February.

That came despite numerous physical ailments, including a chest infection and dizzy spells.

She was also managing a knee problem, which required surgery in March, and a chronic back problem, which saw her spine operated on in June.

Lizzy Yarnold won her second Olympic gold in Pyeongchang (David Davies/PA Images)

It was widely assumed Yarnold, 30 next month, would retire after emulating her Sochi 2014 success with a second gold medal.

Asked if she could carry on to the Beijing 2022 Games, she told Press Association Sport: “Age definitely wouldn’t stop me.

“You could definitely carry on. It’s very much like motorsport. The more experience you have it helps you.”

She is taking her time to consider her decision.

“I’m only nine weeks post op. I do aqua jogging, but I don’t jog or run at the moment,” she added.

“I need to get back healthy – I’m looking forward to getting back training with the other athletes – and then I will think about it once I’ve got to that point.”

Yarnold will return to training before making a final decision on her future in skeleton (David Davies/PA Images)

The debilitating back condition was causing Yarnold “constant pain” which meant she could not sit or drive and had to travel to school visits while lying down on a train or in the back of a car.

It was managed with spinal injections and physio, before it was determined surgery was necessary.

The injuries mean she has had little time to celebrate – and her chosen substance to toast her success is yet to touch her lips.

She added: “For some reason I keep putting it off. I really need to have this pint of Guinness.”

Yarnold recalled the travails she encountered before winning her second Olympic gold.

“I need to remember how much pain I was in,” Yarnold added.

“My sinuses were awful. I was having to sleep upright and I couldn’t sleep.

“I tried to steam my face every couple of hours, trying to flush it out. And it developed into a chest infection. Then they were worried it was pneumonia.

“It was less than ideal. But you can challenge things even harder than you can imagine and you can achieve things you probably didn’t think you could.

“I wasn’t sure I could do as well as I did in that Olympics. I just had the grit to never give up.”

It is a feat which has seen her nominated for the National Lottery Athlete of the Year prize.

“It’s hard as an athlete not to see it as a competition,” she added.

Yarnold would be keen to take part in Strictly Come Dancing if the opportunity arose (Mike Egerton/PA Images)

As for post-skeleton, whenever that might be, Yarnold would be keen to strut her stuff on the dancefloor.

“I’d definitely love to do Strictly,” she said.

As for the post-athlete life, she said: “Being an athlete for a long time… it will be a big identity change.

“Every school I go to they do offer me a job. ‘Has anyone ever told you you’d be a great teacher?’ ‘Yes, every time’.”

Does teaching appeal?

She added: “No. My mum was a teacher. It’s really hard. I wouldn’t do that.”

Meanwhile, Dom Parsons, who won bronze in the men’s event in February, will not compete in the 2018-19 season to complete his mechanical engineering PhD.

Parsons plans to return to competition and race at Beijing 2022, British Bobsleigh and Skeleton announced.

– Lizzy Yarnold is a finalist for Athlete of the Year at this year’s National Lottery Awards – the annual search to find the UK’s favourite National Lottery-funded athletes and projects. Voting is open until September 14 at The winner will be announced during The National Lottery Awards 2018, Wednesday, September 26 at 10.45pm on BBC1.