• ESPN Sports Personality of the Year

Amy Williams - British ice queen

ESPN staff
December 16, 2010

At 7 in our list for ESPN Sports Personality of the Year is Amy Williams - the golden girl of the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

Anyone who hurtles down an ice track at breakneck speeds on a pimped-up tea tray designed by students deserves recognition.

Women's skeleton may not have the prestige of downhill skiing, but since its introduction to the Winter Olympics in 2002, Britain have never failed to medal. Not bad for a country that doesn't have a full training track.

Following Alex Coomber's bronze in Salt Lake City in 2002 and Shelley Rudman's silver in Turin four years ago, Amy Williams stepped out of the shadow of her team-mate to become the first British individual champion at the Winter Olympics in 30 years.

Rudman was hotly tipped for a medal after her silver medal in Italy, but the British No. 1 had no answer to Williams, who blazed to gold, leading from her first run and never relinquishing her lead on her trusty bob Arthur.

A former 400m runner, Williams has natural pace and stamina, and used it to great effect as she stormed to victory, with German pair Kerstin Szymkowiak and Anja Huber completing the podium, while Rudman could only manage sixth.

Just four years after the disappointment of missing out on a place in the Turin Games in 2006, Williams amassed a 0.56 second advantage by the final run at the Whistler Sliding Centre. The last to slide, a solid run of 54.0 seconds was enough to hang on for the gold.

There was a complaint from the Canadian and US teams against the aerodynamics of Williams' helmet, which had small ridges that were tested in an F1 wind tunnel, but they were dismissed by the authorities.

Williams led from the first round at Whistler Sliding Centre © Getty Images

In a sport defined by hundredths of seconds, it was a dominant performance by Williams, who set two track records to win Britain's first individual gold away from the skating rink.

"It's crazy," she said. "I didn't think I'd be standing here, it's all such a blur, I can't remember most of the last run."

The thought of haring down the ice at speeds of up to 80mph is a terrifying prospect for most, but Williams claimed the medal ceremony was the hardest to handle.

"I was more nervous than before any of the runs," she said. "My legs were shaking and I was scared it would show on the cameras."

Williams became an overnight celebrity and she was awarded an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list and was made an Honorary Freeman of the City of Bath.

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