Whistler – Britain’s Amy Williams shattered the Whistler track record to lead the way after two heats of the women’s skeleton on Thursday as she eyed winning her country’s first gold of the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games.
The 27-year-old world silver medalist’s set a new track record of 53.83sec on the 1,450-metre course at Whistler’s Sliding Centre, tearing down the piste at 143.3 kph.
“I didn’t even realise that was a record,” said Williams.
She maintained her lead after the second run, timing 54.13sec for an overall 1:47.96 to lead pre-race favourite Mellisa Hollingworth of Canada by 0.39sec.
World Cup leader Hollingworth, who won five of the six training runs here, was third, 0.09sec behind second-placed Kerstin Szymkowiak of Germany.
Britain have tradition in the skeleton, with Shelley Rudman having won silver at the Turin Olympics in 2006, the country’s only medal of the Games.
While Rudman won a European Championships bronze last month Williams came to Vancouver on a medal mission having missed out, placing sixth in the European standings and fifth in the World Cup.
Rudman was Thursday off the pace at 0.96sec going into Friday’s final two runs while defending champion Maya Pedersen was only 12th after trailing in 1.4sec adrift of Williams.
“I’ve never been confident on this track and though I thought I could crack a few of the corners today, I’m still having a few problems,” said Rudman.
Reigning world champion Marion Trott of Germany could only manage tenth as she also failed to rise to the occasion.
The opening run was delayed for more than half an hour as sunny conditions had softened the ice, which began to harden sufficiently once again as the sun went down.
Officials, meanwhile, disqualified Japanese racer Nozomi Komuro for not having a mandatory control sticker on her sled.