SOCHI, Russia, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- Great Britian’s Lizzy Yarnold was able to capture gold in the women's skeleton event on Friday with a final time of 58.09, while Noelle Pikus-Pace of the U.S. took silver and Elena Nikitina of Russia won bronze.
It was Britain’s first gold medal at the 2014 Games and only the country’s second medal overall. Norway and the U.S. are currently tied for the lead in medals with 13 each.
Yarnold entered the skeleton finals with a 0.44-second lead over her competition and she certainly wouldn’t have made it stand up without the help of her trusty sled, Mervyn.
The sled is named after a retired insurance underwriter named Mervyn Sugden.
“Mervyn my sled, and the real Mervyn Sugden, have both helped me a lot on my journey," Yarnold, 25, told the Telegraph.
When Yarnold first started competing in skeleton she was 19 and took a summer job working at an insurance syndicate to help fund her training. She met Sugden at the job and he eventually gave Yarnold the money she needed to compete, and also brokered a deal with Lloyd & Partners to finance the British skeleton team.
“I heard rumors from some of the younger members of staff that we had a potential Olympian in our midst,” Sugden said. “I did a quick bit of research. I was brought up in Bavaria and Norway for part of my younger life so my original sports were actually Alpine sports, rather than what would be normal for a person at that time in the UK. So I had an idea that it was a bit of a strange thing to do, going headfirst down an ice track. I went over for a chat and she was so compelling that I just handed her an envelope with some money in it and said, ‘I hope that’s what you need to get you on your way.’”