She cannot remember much about how it happened, but Amy Williams became a national sporting heroine on Friday when she won Britain's first Winter Olympics individual gold medal in 30 years. The 27-year-old snatched victory in the women's skeleton, and, in the process, brought heartache to the host nation and smashed the Whistler course record with a time of 3min 35.64sec over her four runs.
She finished 0.56 seconds ahead of Germany's Kerstin Szymkowiak but was in suspense until protests about her helmet were overruled. They came from Canada - whose gold medal favourite Mellisa Hollingsworth finished fifth and in tears after a disastrous final run - and Germany. "It's crazy," said Williams, the first British woman to win individual gold at a Winter Games in more than half a century. "I didn't think I'd be standing here, it's all such a blur, I can't remember most of the last run.
"I came out at the bottom and saw our performance director Andi Schmid smiling, so I thought it must be good. "I was a bit nervous before the race but I thought I've got nothing to lose so I thought I'd just go out and enjoy it and it was great." Canada's Hollingsworth could not hide her disappointment at finishing out of the medals. "I feel like I've let my entire country down," she sobbed. "I just didn't do it.''
Williams brushed aside the protests that so-called "spoilers" on her helmet had given her an advantage. "It's pretty much the same as everyone else's helmet," she said. "And if people want to try and play mind games, that's fine." The last Briton to win individual Winter Olympic gold was Robin Cousins in 1980 in the men's figure skating in Lake Placid. The last British woman to win gold was also a figure skater, Jeannette Altwegg, in Oslo in 1952.
The host nation did manage to win a gold in the skeleton, despite the Hollingsworth disappointment, when Jon Montgomery took the men's event - and promptly apologised to Martins Dukurs after pipping the Latvian to the top of the podium by just 0.07 seconds. Dukurs, who has been outstanding all week, got his line badly wrong on his last run and handed victory to Montgomery, who res-ponded by roaring his delight to a celebrating Canadian crowd.
"I said at the beginning of the race that if I was in that position and if I did get gold coming from behind that I was going to remain stoic and respectful because you never want to cheer when somebody else loses. I have to apologise to Martins. I lost my mind when I saw the 0.07 come up and I was like I had stuck my finger in a light socket." It was another good day for Norway as Aksel Lund Svindal beat America's Bode Miller to the men's super G title and Marit Bjoergen became the first double gold medallist of the Games as she won the women's 15km cross country skiing.
"I knew that I was in great shape, but to take two golds, I never dreamed about it," said Bjoergen, who won the individual sprint on Wednesday. In the men's ice hockey, Teemu Selanne broke the record for career points in the Olympics, setting up Kimmo Timonen on his second goal late in the second period as Finland beat Germany 5-0. Selanne's assist was the 37th point of his Olympic career. The defending champions, Sweden, and the Czech Republic also maintained their 100 per cent records. The Swedes beat Belarus 4-2 while the Czechs, who can top their pool with a win over Russia today, overcame Latvia 5-2.
"It's going to be a special game [against Russia] because they're one of the favourites," said Jaromir Jagr, the veteran Czech winger and former NHL star. "Sometimes you want easy games. But once you retire, you're going to remember those games and moments. That's why I want to play Russia and hopefully play Canada in Canada. That would be something special for me." * With agencies