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Before the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang not many people had heard of Laura Deas. Laura was the second British athlete to compete in the brutal sport of skeleton. Everyone has heard of Lizzy Yarnold who was trying to defend her 2014 Olympic title. but not so much of Laura.
Remarkably these two athletes have very similar life stories and many events almost bind them together. Lizzy and Laura are only separated in age by three months. Both girls are outstanding athletes in their own right. Lizzy was a heptathlete and Laura a Tetrathlete (riding, shooting, running and swimming). Both girls had a love of horses. Laura Deas has said that competing in eventing competitions actually gave her the courage to take up skeleton. She knew the sport was dangerous but so was eventing and she had to think with split second reactions in both.
Laura Deas and Lizzy Yarnold were both recruited into skeleton by a sporting scheme called Girls4Gold and this gave them their chance. At this point their skeleton careers went at a very different pace. Whilst Lizzy Yarnold quickly won titles and was in fact only the second athlete in the sport of skeleton to hold European, World Cup and Olympic medals, Laura Deas had failed to make the 2014 team for the Sochi Olympics. Laura carried on working really hard and in her first World Cup season she came a creditable fifth. Deas claims that the disappointment of missing out on a place in Sochi drove her on to achieve better results the following year. Deas won a silver medal in Calgary at only her second World Cup race. At the beginning of the 2015/16 seasons she raced to a gold medal at the same venue in Germany where she had, ironically, failed to qualify for the Sochi Olympics.
Since that season Deas has proved herself to be one of the most consistent athletes on the track, finishing in the top ten of the World Cup races in each campaign and actually collecting five medals along the way. The 2018 Olympics was always going to be tough with Lizzy Yarnold trying to replicate her win in Sochi.
The British team were confident of a good result in the skeleton and the hopes of the nation rested on Lizzy Yarnold. Laura Deas had plans of her own and was determined to win her own battle. Lizzy Yarnold did secure the gold medal but Laura Deas took the bronze medal making it two medals for Great Britain in the women’s skeleton.
What remarkable coincidences. Both women have similar yet different stories. Lizzy Yarnold had the gold medal to spur her on. Laura Deas had disappointment to drive her on. Both girls achieved so much but it does go to show that to be at the top you need something to inspire you and for each of us that inspiration can be so different.
We look forward to following the results of both these girls in the future and wish them both lots of success.