Lizzy Yarnold closes in on title with fourth World Cup gold

By Nick HopeBBC Olympic sports reporter in Austria
Yarnold races to Innsbruck gold

Britain's Lizzy Yarnold claimed her fourth skeleton World Cup gold of the season with victory in Austria.

Yarnold, 25, completed her two runs in a combined time of one minute 49.04 seconds, with USA rival Noelle Pikus-Pace 0.32 secs back in second.

It was the British slider's seventh medal of the season.

It eclipsed the previous record of six podium finishes she shared with Shelley Rudman, who finished fifth, and now retired slider Alex Coomber.

"I had absolutely no idea [it was a record]," Yarnold told BBC Sport.

"I'm just so chuffed because I gave everything I've got this week, as I have throughout the season."

The victory effectively secured Yarnold the overall World Cup title as she holds a 225 point lead over Pikus-Pace in the standings.

A win awards 225 points, meaning the Bath-based athlete only needs to complete her runs at next week's event in Konigsee, Germany, to be guaranteed the overall gold medal for the season.

"Being the overall champion is something I've dreamed of because to many it's the most important thing in the sport because it shows you're consistently good," she said.

"But I'm always looking to improve."

Rudman was philosophical about her result, a week after her maiden World Cup medal of the season in Switzerland, stating she is going through an "experimental" phase ahead of the Olympics.

"I'm in a fairly good situation where I can have a bit of a play around and see what's going to work for me," said Rudman, who won Olympic silver at the 2006 Turin Games.

"It's been a good experiment competition for me and trying out new types of preparations which will hopefully help me going forwards."

The event marked the end of the Olympic qualification period, with Yarnold and Rudman expected to be officially named in the Team GB squad for Sochi on 22 January.

Fellow British slider Rose McGrandle is likely to miss out on selection for the Games after finishing 14th in Austria.

The British men's team, of Kristan Bromley, Dom Parsons and Ed Smith will compete on Saturday morning.