The women's skeleton event started with a bang at Sochi 2014 with an explosive first two heats in which records tumbled.
The day belonged to Great Britain's Elizabeth Yarnold, who smashed the track record in her first run with a time of 58.43. After her second run she remained in the lead with a dominant advantage of plus-0.44 over second-place Noelle Pikus-Pace of the USA.
Yarnold clocked a combined time of 1:56.89.
Pikus-Pace herself initially broke the track record on her first run with a slide of 58.68. However, she only held the milestone for a matter of minutes before Yarnold's masterclass.
The American ended her first combined session with a total time of 1:57.33.
Russian athlete Elena Nikitina also produced an excellent session, clocking in at 1:57.44. She currently lies in third place.
Skeleton legend Anja Huber of Germany finished in seventh position with a combined time of 1:58.30. She will hope to at least contest for a place in the medals.
Here are the leaders after the first two runs:
|1||Elizabeth Yarnold||Great Britain||1:56.89|
Germany and Russia dominate the top 10 with three athletes each appearing.
Yarnold's blistering first two heats will lay down a marker against her opposition for the gold medal. At almost half a second faster than Pikus-Pace, only a bad mistake can stop her from achieving Olympic glory.
As reported by Simon Hart and Ian Chadband of The Telegraph, Yarnold arrived at the competition as the world No. 1 and World Cup champion. She said:
The key for me is that for me it’s the same as any World Cup race or British team races. The only pressure I feel is the pressure I load on myself to really perform at my best, so when I go down the track I’m just competing against myself. I can’t think about the other women. I just focus on myself.
The BBC's Dan Walker tweeted about Yarnold's amazing opening to her campaign for glory:
Yarnold or THE YARNOLD, as we have to call her, is Queen of the track. Could be some serious Gary Medel going on #Sochi2014— Dan Walker (@mrdanwalker) February 13, 2014
She will want to emulate reigning champion Amy Williams, also from Great Britain, and capture the gold at her first attempt, per the BBC. Williams had tipped Yarnold to succeed in Sochi, and it seems like that prediction might well come true.
The Telegraph tweeted about Williams' opinions on Yarnold and how good she had looked before the Games began:
Yarnold will enter superstar territory if she succeeds and fulfills expectation by winning gold. Williams was thrust from unknown status to television star in a matter of days after her victory, and there is little doubt that Yarnold would follow the same path.
Her background as a heptathlete, per the BBC, will give her a grounding to go even faster, both here at Sochi and at future events. It is amazing that she only took up the sport in 2010.
She threatens to break all sorts of records with the kind of pace she is finding, but can her technique hold up when the pressure is on? That is the fundamental question, but all signs suggest she can truly become the dominant athlete in this discipline for many years to come.