Lizzy Yarnold goes for gold in the final two runs of the Winter Olympics women's skeleton in Sochi later on Thursday, but there is controversy hanging over the event amid reports that host nation Russia have a secret training venue.
According to the Daily Mail, the Australia skeleton team have lodged a complaint over the issue, while Great Britain are also less than happy:
Although the British team kept a diplomatic silence on Thursday — knowing that, other than for an unexpected twist, Yarnold should prevail regardless — the Australian camp had already lodged an official complaint about what they believe is a secret Russian training venue in the mountain forests above Sochi.
Under Olympic rules, training facilities inside the Games cordon must be made available to all competing nations rather than confined to a single team.
A well-placed source who asked not to be named suggested the secret hideaway replicated the start of the track. If so, that would be especially beneficial to the Russians because the start is as important to a slider as to a 100m runner.
Yarnold holds a 0.44-second lead over the field going into the final two runs. The lead puts her in a strong position to convert her advantage into a gold medal, but America’s Noelle Pikus-Pace lies in second place and Elena Nikitina, the leading competitor from Russia, is 0.5 seconds adrift in third.
The Mail report even suggests that the Russians returned to their base after Day 1's competition and used it for runs again. The time benefits could be worth as much as 0.3 seconds per slide if they get their starts right, the paper estimates.