Olympic champ Williams on fast track to honours

WHO WILL GET YOUR VOTE? Amy Williams became Britain’s first individual Winter Olympic gold medallist for 30 years earlier this year with a combination of nerve, athleticism and sheer guts which, says IAN COLE, makes her his choice for SJA Sportswoman of the Year

Downhill racer: Amy Williams in high-speed action

It takes a special kind of woman to travel head first down an icy track on a tea tray at speeds approaching 90mph. The very thought of it sends a shiver down the spine.

Amy Williams has the necessary nerve, the steely determination and a certain feminine feistiness that separates her from mere mortals.

She is so good, so accomplished in her sport of skeleton bob, that in February on Whistler Mountain, Vancouver, she became Olympic champion.

It may have been way back at the start of the year, but her achievement is worth recalling. In winning Olympic gold, Amy led the competition from start to finish, twice breaking the track record along the way and taking first place by more than half a second – which is a lifetime to you and me.

In doing so, 28-year-old Amy became the first individual British gold medallist at the Winter Olympics since figure skater Robin Cousins 30 years before. She was the first British female individual gold medallist since another skater, Jeannette Altweg, in 1952.

The right stuff: Olympic gold medallist Williams is worthy of your vote

It was a phenomenal achievement and deserves to be replayed in our minds as we consider our choice for the SJA’s prestigious title of Sportswoman of the Year. Her case should not be diminished either by the fact that her success happened many months ago – or by a time difference which meant few of us were around to watch it live.

Think about it. Whistler is reckoned to be the fastest ice track in the world. It is almost a mile long and has 16 curves. Your skeleton bob has no steering and no brakes. You hope to make up for that by using your feet and shifting your body weight from time to time.

Amy’s bob – she calls him Arthur – reached a top speed of 89.04mph, with her chin positioned just millimetres above the ice.

Scared? You should be. A couple of days before the competition a Georgian slider, Nodar Kumaritashvili, was killed in practice on Whistler’s deadly curves.

“Everyone was quite scared of the speed,” said Amy, after collecting her medal. “It was super-quick, but you have to go with it. I thought some of the others looked tense, but you had to let yourself go. I knew I had to throw myself into it as quickly as possible and let the speed come.

“A few times I’ve wondered ‘What am I doing?’. But I’ve never lost the drive, never let go of my ambition to compete in an Olympics.”

In Britain, of course, there are no ice tracks. All we have is a dry starting simulator near her home in Bath. Which makes her achievement all the more remarkable.

Amy Williams is my kind of woman and that’s why she gets my vote for the SJA’s 2010 Sportswoman of the Year.

Who is worthy of your vote? Post your comments in the box below, or check out our experts’ views here:

Sportsman of the Year

Cricketer Graeme Swann

Jump jockey AP McCoy

Sportswoman of the Year

Swimmer Fran Halsall

Team of the Year

Voting for the SJA’s annual British Sports Awards is now open. Only SJA members may vote, and they are allowed to vote only once, when they must choose their top three choice for Sportsman, Sportswoman and Team of the Year.

Voting forms are being posted to members with the SJA Bulletin autumn edition, or you may vote online.

Deadline for voting is November 9.

Tickets to attend the SJA British Sports Awards on December 8 are also now on sale.