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Winter Olympics - Britain's first gold - Common Injuries
The 27-year-old skeleton slider maintained her nerve and courage magnificently on the world’s fastest ice track, which only a week earlier had tragically taken the life of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili...
By: Martin Wyatt
The 27-year-old skeleton slider maintained her nerve and courage magnificently on the world’s fastest ice track, which only a week earlier had tragically taken the life of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, to earn Britain its first individual gold at the Winter Games since figure skater Robin Cousins 30 years ago.
Common Injuries in the Skeleton:
Clearly there is an element of danger in the sport. The potential for serious, even catastrophic or fatal injury exists and anyone who is contemplating trying the sport must acknowledge this. Nevertheless, most participants would argue that the sport is not as dangerous as it looks. Although fractures do occur, most collisions with the walls are glancing blows, not head on. Generally speaking, the injuries which occur are similar to those found in contact sports such as football or judo. (Despite the fact that Skeleton is not, technically, a contact sport.)"
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And the Bath athlete, who emulates Jeannette Altwegg, figure skating gold medallist in 1952, did not just win, she obliterated her opponents, recording a combined time over four runs which was more than half a second faster than any of her rivals. It was Britain’s first medal of a difficult Games.
After a nervous overnight wait, as she pondered holding a significant 0.3sec lead over her competitors, the former sprinter, cheered on by her mum Jan and dad Ian in the front row of the Whistler Sliding Centre, dispelled any thoughts of choking when, as the first athlete to go, she produced a sensational third run, covering the 1,450m descent in 53.68sec, breaking the track record she had set just the day before by 0.15sec.
She felt it had not been a clean run, and she struggled on turns 12 and 13, but it was easily enough to push her advantage with just one run left to 0.52sec over Canadian Mellisa Hollingsworth, who had started as an outstanding favourite.
An advantage of more than half a second was massive in an event often decided by mere hundredths and it seemed that only if she was suddenly to be transformed into Greg Norman on runners, could she blow the lead.
She did not. Astonishingly relaxed, she explained chirpily between runs “I’m really enjoying myself” and, last to go with Germany’s Kerstin Szymkowiak having set the target time when Hollingsworth produced a poor final run, Williams launched one of her familiar jet-propelled starts and clocked 54.00sec to finish 0.56sec faster.
And as the former sprinter celebrated her rocket ride from obscurity to the Olympic gold medal podium in the space of just a couple of days, with Sir Richard Branson among the crowd cheering her on, it marked the happy ending to one of British sport’s great Cinderella stories.
We had been looking at the wrong athlete all along because all the pre-Games fuss and focus had been on Williams’s rival Shelley Rudman, the silver medallist from Turin four years ago.
Rudman could only finish fifth despite a fine last run, while Williams, who has been understandably peeved that her own substantial achievements have been overlooked, never appeared anything but at home on the track where she won a world championship silver last year.
Williams had been left unaware of the off-ice drama which had seen six other teams, led by the US, protesting about her race helmet, claiming that it broke regulations and offered her an unfair aerodynamic advantage.
And although the protest was thrown out, there were still rumours circulating that Williams’s victory was so conclusive for an athlete who had never previously won a World Cup race, that further complaints could still resurface. For the moment, though, nothing could cloud the joy of Britain’s golden ice maiden.
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