Sevenoaks: Lizzie Yarnold Wins Gold

Sevenoaks Skeleton slider Lizzy Yarnold won the hearts of the nation as she claimed a Valentine's Day victory with Great Britain's first gold medal at the Sochi winter Olympics.

The 25-year-old said she was "chuffed'' to be crowned Britain's 10th ever winter Olympics champion in the Caucasus mountains above Rosa Khutor.

She lived up to her billing as Great Britain's strongest gold medal hope since Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean won in Sarajevo 30 years to the day and retained for Britain the title obtained by Amy Williams in Vancouver four years ago.

"I'm so, so thrilled I got myself here after five years through very hard work,'' she said afterwards.

"As an athlete you give up so much, but on a day like today, with a victory like today's, it's so worth it.

"I showed the world what I am capable of and I wanted to do myself justice and I really can't believe I won that.

"It's lovely that it's Valentine's Day today as well, there's lots of romance in the air and my mum and dad coming to watch me, my sisters, my best friends, everyone's here that I can share it with.

"I couldn't do it without them, I couldn't do it without the whole British skeleton team, there are so many people that are a part of my journey, so a massive thanks to them all.

"I just believed in myself, I knew I could do it if I put in the hard work and the dedication, I could do it and I have.''

Yarnold celebrated after her gold-clinching final run by running towards the British fans in the crowd holding aloft the Union Flag and beaming with joy.

The Yarny Army, which includes parents Clive and Judith, sisters Katie and Charlotte, and boyfriend James Roche, who is a sled technician with the British bobsleigh team, were present to watch her moment of triumph.

The win makes her the fourth consecutive British woman to claim an Olympic skeleton medal after Alex Coomber, Shelley Rudman and Amy Williams.

The well-spoken former grammar school girl is also a grime music aficionado who listens to the likes of Dizzee Rascal, Giggs and Wiley to get in the zone before her runs down the icy track.

An avalanche of tributes poured in as the country celebrated Yarnold's famous victory at the Sanki Sliding Centre.

Prime Minister David Cameron took to Twitter to say: "Congratulations to @TheYarnold - an amazing gold for @TeamGB in the women's skeleton''.

Gloucestershire University, where Yarnold graduated with a BSc Honours in Geography and Sport and Exercise Sciences, said: "YEAH!! She did it!! Well done @TheYarnold we never had any doubt! Gold champion!! #GoTeamGB''

Paralympic gold medallist Ellie Simmonds tweeted: "WOW just watched @TheYarnold get gold big Congrats''.

Yarnold had gone into the final two runs with a commanding 0.44 second advantage over American rival Noelle Pikus-Pace after a commanding performance on Thursday.

Despite inevitable fears of how she might cope with the pressure of holding such a big overnight lead, she responded with two sensational runs as night fell over the Caucasus mountains.

She clocked 58.09 seconds on her fourth and final run to win by 0.97secs from Noelle Pikus-Pace with a combined time of three minutes 52.89secs.