Skeleton slider Lizzy Yarnold wept tears of joy as she was presented with her medal after winning the nation's first gold in the Sochi winter Olympics.

The 25-year-old from Kent later admitted she had been crying before even stepping up to the podium to become Great Britain's fourth women's skeleton medallist.

She lived up to her billing as the country's strongest gold medal hope since Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean won in Sarajevo 30 years ago to the day and retained for Britain the title obtained by Amy Williams in Vancouver four years ago.

Yarnold's triumph in the Caucasus mountains above Rosa Khutor also makes her Britain's 10th ever winter Olympics champion.

"It's just me - Lizzy," said a disbelieving Yarnold after the ceremony in the Olympic Park as she admitted she had finally begun to come to terms with being an Olympic champion.

Yarnold added: "I was crying before I even went out there. I had to look again and check that my medal was really this colour. It just made it worth every second of work - a whole lifetime of work - for this moment.

"I couldn't stop crying the whole way through. I cry a lot in private but when I've got a job to do I'm very set and serious. The ceremony was a lot more nerve-racking. I didn't know what to do out there."

Her victory ceremony along with an equally overjoyed Noelle Pikus-Pace who took silver, and rising Russian bronze medallist Elena Nikitina, capped an extraordinarily steep trajectory for Yarnold, who recalled how her first skeleton run six years ago as part of a Girls4Gold talent programme left her ready to "throw up".

Last night Yarnold celebrated after her gold-clinching final run by running towards the British fans in the crowd, holding aloft the Union Flag and beaming with joy.

The Yarny Army, which includes parents Clive and Judith, sisters Katie and Charlotte, and boyfriend James Roche, who is a sled technician with the British bobsleigh team, were there to watch her moment of glory.

"I'm so, so thrilled I got myself here after five years through very hard work," she said afterwards.

"As an athlete you give up so much, but on a day like today, with a victory like today's, it's so worth it.

"I showed the world what I am capable of and I wanted to do myself justice and I really can't believe I won that.

Speaking of her family, she said: "I couldn't do it without them, I couldn't do it without the whole British skeleton team, there are so many people that are a part of my journey, so a massive thanks to them all.

"I just believed in myself, I knew I could do it if I put in the hard work and the dedication, I could do it and I have."

Yarnold - who finished 0.97secs clear of the field after four fantastic runs of around 80mph at the Sanki Sliding Centre - is the fourth consecutive British woman to claim an Olympic skeleton medal after Alex Coomber, Shelley Rudman and Williams.

A crowd, including Olympians from other sports, gathered around the big screen at the University of Bath's sports training village where British Skeleton is based to cheer the former grammar school girl on in her final two runs.

Yarnold first received an elite scholarship in 2007 for being a multi-discipline track and field athlete but got involved in skeleton by responding to an advert in 2008 for UK Sport's Girls4Gold talent identification campaign while at university.

She went on to claim her first International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (FIBT) World Cup victory on only her second career start in 2012.

Her first major result came at the 2012 World Championships in Lake Placid, placing above former Olympic medallists to claim bronze and confirming her potential in the sport.

UK Sport has pumped £ 3.4 million into the British Skeleton programme - by far the biggest sum afforded any winter sport - and created a set-up that is the envy of many alpine nations.

Yarnold also revealed last night that she was so relaxed she managed to sleep in between her final two runs down the Olympic track despite being on the cusp of Olympic glory.

She added: "I came back up the track, took my race suit and my helmet off, listened to Bombay Bicycle Club then had a nap. I don't get nervous, I know what needs to be done and I do it."

Figures from Twitter showed an explosion in Yarnold's popularity on the social media site, her number of followers rising from just over 3,500 before the Sochi Games started to over 40,500 today.