Lizzy Yarnold Cites World Challenge as Gold Inspiration

11th March 2014

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It may have been some eight years ago, but Lizzy Yarnold believes her World Challenge experience helped her claim Gold at last month's Winter Olympics in Sochi.
The 25-year-old, who was almost a second quicker in the Skeleton event than nearest rival American Noelle Pikus-Pace in Russia, undertook the Maya Route (Belize, Guatemala & Mexico) expedition with Maidstone Grammar School for Girls back in 2006.
"My World Challenge expedition certainly helped shape me into the person that I am today," she said.
"I recall many moments during my World Challenge where I looked up and was taken away by the beautiful scenery around me – countries that you may never get the chance to visit again.
"I learnt a lot about leadership, drive and motivation during my four weeks in-country and I have carried those disciplines forward into my career as an athlete.
"It was a life-changing experience and provided me with memories that I will always fondly remember."
Lizzy added: "I was one of the girls on the expedition who was charged with looking after the group finances so that was a terrific learning curve for me.
"I was also the team leader for a day and had some tough decisions to make but my philosophy has always been that if you've got a plan then you've just got to stick to it.
"It was good to be making such tough decisions as a teenager because anything could have happened – very much like it can in Skeleton, and you have to be both mentally and physically prepared."

Fundraising is also a big part of the expedition build-up, and Lizzy remembers fondly how she made ends meet.

"It wasn't the most glamorous of jobs but I worked long hours at Brands Hatch (race circuit) making teas and coffees in the pit lane for the teams.

"It was quite monotonous and there were times when I just wanted to give up and pull out of the programme but the thought of missing out on a once in a lifetime experience and the chance to make a difference in a local community was what kept me going.

"It was also a nice distraction from my GCSE exams as I came back from the trip and received the results a week later!"

Lizzy also admitted the opportunity to make history, by becoming the first woman to successfully defend Olympic Skeleton Gold at the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang (South Korea), is an exciting prospect.

"It would be a dream to defend my title," she said. "I'm off to New Zealand now but plan to get back into the gym during the summer. I want to stay on top of my game for as long as possible."

The School Leader who accompanied Lizzy on the expedition was Andrea Gillmeister, who remembers the Kent-born champion well.
Andrea: "Lizzy was mentally strong and a real team player – and her recent success came as no surprise to me.
"You always hope that one of your former student's inspiration, motivation and attitude towards goals in life may have been partly inspired through the efforts you make as a School Leader, organising and accompanying trips like World Challenge."