Lizzy Yarnold wins back-to-back gold in women's skeleton
Gold: Lizzy Yarnold (Great Britain)
Silver: Jacqueline Loelling (Germany)
Bronze: Laura Deas (Great Britain)
Lizzy Yarnold came to play. Down by 0.02 seconds heading into the fourth and final run, the Great Britain skeleton slider blitzed a course record to win gold, her second consecutive. She became the first skeleton to not only win two medals in the event, she became the first to win back-to-back golds. On top of that, she became the first Great Britain athlete to win back-to-back gold in any Winter Olympics event.
Jacqueline Loelling of Germany won silver, 0.45 seconds back of Yarnold, and Laura Deas gave Great Britain its second medal in the event, winning bronze by 0.02 seconds over Austria's Janine Flock. Loelling's medal was the first skeleton medal for the German women ever.
Americans Katie Uhlaender and Kendall Wesenberg finished in 13th and 17th, respecitvely.
"I dreamt of this," Yarnold told NBC's Lewis Johnson, "and I never thought it was possible." Yarnold told Johnson she nearly pulled out of the competition because of a chest infection, but stuck with it and won gold. The medal was even more sweet with a fellow Great Britain athlete sharing a spot on the medal stand with her.
"To be on the podium with my teammate and one of my best friends in the world, Laura [Deas], means the world to me," Yarnold said.
Yarnold became the first women’s skeleton athlete to win two medals. She was 0.1 seconds behind Loelling and 0.08 behind Austria's Janine Flock heading into the second day of competition. She got right to work, catching time on Run 3 to climb into second, only 0.02 behind Flock -- Loelling hit the wall heading out of the infamous ninth turn on her first run and fell into third behind Flock by 0.1. Heading into the fourth and final run, only 0.1 separated the top three spots, and Great Britain’s Laura Deas was only 0.19 back of the lead in fourth.
It seemed it would be a blanket finish for gold, but Yarnold lit the track on fire in her final run, setting a blazing track record. The 29-year-old distanced herself from teh rest of the field as Flock faded from first to fourth on the final run as Deas snuck into medal position.
As for the Americans, Uhlaender was a heartbreaking fourth in Sochi, only 0.04 seconds out of bronze. Her shot at redemption didn’t go to plan, however. In her fourth Olympic Games (she’s the only athlete to compete in four games) she struggled in her first run -- never making one huge mistake, but never finding the perfect line -- and wasn’t able to climb back into medal contention over her final three runs.
While it wasn't the Olympics she hoped it would be, Uhlaender explained it's been a tough year.
"In the last year I almost died in November," she told NBC's Lewis Johnson. "I came back two weeks out of the hospita., and then finish the season to find my best friend passed away. Then I pulled my hamstring. I had a surprise on the line yesterday: I hadn't seen my mom in four years, and she somehow snuck in and was standing on the line. So I had an emotional moment."
She continued, "There's so much good that's come out of this. I'm at the Olympic Games! I wish that I'd brought you guys a medal home, sorry. I did my best, dang it."
Wesenberg, making her Olympic debut, followed a similar trajectory to Uhlaender. It wasn’t one gut-wrenching mistake that put her out of it, but instead, a slew of tiny mishaps that kept her from threatening from a medal.