Olympic skeleton champion Lizzy Yarnold paid a visit to aspiring Olympians hoping to follow in her footsteps at trials for the talent search Power2Podium.
The Sochi 2014 gold medallist, who was discovered through previous talent campaign Girls4Gold in 2008, shared her experiences with athletes at London’s Lee Valley Stadium on 10-11 May, as well as offering them motivation and advice.
She said: “Coming here today and seeing all the athletes in testing brings back so many memories from Girls4Gold. Most of all this reminds me of the passion I had at that time. These athletes have a whole world of possibilities ahead of them and I think that’s what’s so special.”
Power2Podium: Skeleton is a nationwide search for male and female athletes run by UK Sport, the English Institute of Sport (EIS) and British Skeleton, with the ultimate aim of discovering world class athletes for the future.
Senior Lead Performance Pathway Scientist with the Performance Pathways Team (UK Sport and EIS) Dr Stewart Laing explained: “While we’re looking for really powerful, explosive athletes capable of a strong push start, we are equally keen on finding athletes who have the potential to learn to drive.
“It’s not just the physical elements that are important; it’s also the cognitive and psychological elements that add up to make a successful athlete.”
Of 900 applicants to Power2Podium, 664 were invited to one of three weekends of initial testing across the UK. Successful athletes will then progress to specific assessments over the summer looking at how they sprint on the push track at Bath University. The next phase will be an intense camp in Bath, before athletes are taken out on ice to experience sliding for the first time in the autumn.
Athletes from a wide range of athletic backgrounds were invited to trials, with many having been inspired by Sochi 2014. Professional ballet dancer turned pole vaulter Thomas Snee described himself as “Olympic obsessed”, while like 20-year-old 400m hurdler Samantha Brown said the ultimate aim was to represent her country in a new sport.
Ben Hughes, 24, a national level sidecar passenger read up about the campaign after watching Lizzy Yarnold power to victory in Russia and now wants to emulate her success.
He said: “If I could get to the Olympics that’d be absolutely awesome, I’ve always been a competitive person and I’ve always wanted to race, so competing at the very highest level and applying myself every single day would be a dream come true.”
Commenting on the inspirational power of her Olympic victory, Yarnold said: “My favourite thing is talking to people who watched the race and screamed at the TV and hearing how much it meant to them.
“Looking ahead I want to keep inspiring people and keep giving them those moments that can bring the family together. I’ve got PyeongChang which is four years away, but I’ve not yet been world champion, I’ve been World Cup champion and Olympic champion, so I want to complete the set!”
While Yarnold looks ahead to her future, the Power2Podium hopefuls now face an anxious wait to hear if their own Olympic journeys could be about to get started.
Previous campaigns run by the Performance Pathways Team (UK Sport and EIS) have unearthed three Olympic medallists, one Paralympic medallist and 17 world championship medallists. Read more about this area of work.