To the residents of Bath: An apology. It is not unknown for the British Olympic gold medallist, Lizzy Yarnold, to stand in the middle of The Circus, famous for its Georgian architecture, and shout as loudly as she can. “Not rude words,” she adds, hastily. Apparently, “Bath bun!” at top volume is a particular favourite.
“If you stand right in the middle of The Circus and yell, you get this wonderful echo," she explains. "It’s been perfectly designed for it. I’ve done it a few times. The residents don’t really like it.”
This is a whole new Yarnold to the one we witnessed on Valentine’s Day 2014, the day of her destiny in the final of the Olympic skeleton competition in Sochi. Everything she had done for the past five years had come down to that day. “Extremely obsessive” is how she describes her planning and, in her final head-first descent down the ice chute at speeds touching 80mph, all the plotting paid off. Instantly, she was reborn ‘the Snow Queen’.
Yarnold is nominated for the BT Sport Action Woman of the Year Award
“For five years it was all about 14 February 2014. Now it’s odd. I feel very free of having to prove myself,” says Yarnold. “I feel I can just explore being a different kind of athlete. Not one who has just one date in her mind. I feel a bit more of a wholesome person. It’s not just about skeleton sliding, it’s about trying to improve all round as a person.”
The major beneficiary of this “improvement” is her boyfriend, James Roche, the engineer and former British sailor, who co-designed her sled and who now works alongside Ben Ainslie on his quest for the America’s Cup. Needless to say, the Yarnold/Roche approach to life in the flat they share in Bath is pretty organised.
“He’s very strong-willed and I don’t think he listens when I’m being bossy," she chuckles. "I Skyped him when I was away the other day and said: ‘Have you done the hoovering?’ His answer was: ‘You didn’t put it on the list’. We work very well together. He’s meticulous and also expects a lot from himself, so we understand each other.