Yarnold touched by new-found fame
3:04pm Saturday 22nd February 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Lizzy Yarnold realised the extent of her new-found fame when she stopped by a Frenchwoman in London after returning from the Winter Olympics in Sochi with a skeleton gold medal.
The 25-year-old set two track records on her way to victory on day seven of the Games which sent her profile soaring.
Yarnold flew back to the United Kingdom to fulfil some media duties before returning to Russia where it was confirmed today that she will carry the flag for Great Britain at Sunday's closing ceremony.
It was during a walk by the River Thames that she realised how far her achievement had spread.
"It was half-term back in the UK, so lots of families and kids were about," said Yarnold.
"I was walking along the River Thames between the Millennium Bridge and the London Eye, I had very inconspicuous clothes on with my medal underneath my t-shirt but they started to recognise me and I signed a few autographs.
"I met a French lady and I couldn't understand what she said so her daughter, bless her, translated the conversation between the two of us.
"It's lovely to know that it's not only in the UK that we have fans, it's also internationally, which is really cool because France is such a strong winter sports nation.
"A little girl came over to me and said, 'excuse me, are you the Olympian Lizzy?' It was beautiful and after that there were families and children asking to have their picture with me.
"That moment where someone says that they did watch your event and were passionate, and this girl who I might inspire, it was amazing for me.
"So it has been an awesome week. It has been the best Games of my life.
"I won the gold medal and now it has been topped off with being flag bearer at the closing ceremony so I can't wait for tomorrow."
Yarnold, from West Kingsdown near Sevenoaks, is the fourth consecutive Team GB athlete to medal in the women's skeleton event, following Alex Coomber's bronze (2002), Shelley Rudman's silver (2006) and Amy Williams' gold (2010), with her selection as the flag bearer made by chef de mission Mike Hay and deputy chefs de mission Mahdi Choudhury and Louise Whitehead.
She will lead out the most successful British Winter Olympics team since 1924, which could become the most successful ever if John Jackson wins a medal in the bobsleigh on Sunday.
Yarnold described the honour as "unexpected" and "quite overwhelming."
"It feels amazing because I'm not only representing skeleton any more, this is the whole Team GB," she said.
"It's a responsibility. I'm trying to take it all in
"I know so many of the other athletes. I've got to learn about their sports and have so much respect for them all, so to fly the flag for us all is phenomenal."
Yarnold is hoping the profile of Olympic sport in Britain, fuelled by the London 2012 Olympics, can be carried through to the next winter Games in PyeonChang in 2018.
"We have got the Commonwealth Games (Glasgow 2014), the Olympics in Rio (2016) and then we start again for PyeongChang so I really hope that this will stay in people's minds and that I can keep inspiring people and go into schools and meet lots of people," she said.
"Meeting so many new people and experiencing how they saw my race, I see it like a ball of flames in my heart that inspires me to go on."