Amy Williams

The Olympic skeleton gold medallist on sliding down hills headfirst at 90mph, Top Gear and not having anything to wear for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards
Amy Williams practices during skeleton training at the Winter Olympics
Amy Williams: so nice she wouldn't put anything in Room 101. Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Amy Williams: so nice she wouldn't put anything in Room 101. Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Barry Glendenning
Thu 16 Dec 2010 19.05 EST

Hello Amy, how are you? I'm very well thanks. I'm sat on a train so hopefully I won't go through any tunnels and get cut off.

Let's cut to the chase – you're nominated for BBC Sports Personality of the Year but everybody thinks AP McCoy is going to win. Will you mind if he does and you don't? Oh, of course not, but you know it's like any competition isn't it – you want to win, but I understand it's a public vote and he's the favourite to win, but we'll just have to see.

He has an unfair advantage if you ask us. He has horses to do all his, eh, donkey work, while you rely on what looks like a tea tray. [Laughs] Well, I wouldn't say that exactly. Going around a racetrack on a horse at 40mph, jumping those big fences and knowing you could stumble or fall – it's obviously very challenging.

Yours is one of the few sports that's probably more dangerous than racing horses over fences – how did a nice girl from Bath end up sliding headfirst down an icy chute at 90mph for a living? Well, it helps if you're a sprinter or a speed athlete first, which I was. And then, to be honest, I just lived in the right place at the right time. We had this little push-track thing at the bottom of some fields and I just had a go. Then I took myself off to an ice-track and the rest is history, I guess.

What does it feel like whizzing down the track with your head inches from the ice? It's random – you feel so many emotions. The first time you do it you don't know what it's going to feel like, so that's almost your least scariest time. You start from about halfway when you first learn, then gradually make your way to the top. So yeah, you are scared, especially if you've had a crash or a bad thump and you know you've got to get back to the top and keep going. But then, like anything, once you train for it and you get used to it then the thrill of the speed takes over and you want to go quicker.

Since you won your gold medal in February you've been catapulted into a sort of celebrity world, appearing on chat shows with Jonathan Ross, zooming around the Top Gear track, racing boats with Zara Phillips and presenting Baftas. Are you enjoying your time in the limelight? It's been brilliant. I've had all these opportunities and requests to do things that I wouldn't otherwise have had the chance to, so it's been great fun. It's been busy and tiring, but I wouldn't change it for the world.

How did you fare as Top Gear's Star In A Reasonably Priced Car? That was amazing, probably the most nerve-wracking thing I have ever done.

Really? Yeah! I've never put my foot flat down and gone around the corners; I was really worried about tipping over.

So how did you get on? Oh, I really want to go back because it was raining so I could only do a wet lap, which is obviously going to be slower. It was really good fun and the guys looked after me really well.

Did you have to sign a legal disclaimer promising not to reveal the identity of the show's tame racing driver The Stig? Small Talk presumes he doesn't wear his helmet at all times. He does wear it at all times! [Laughs]

Really? Yes, even when he's trying to have a cup of tea he has to walk across the building and you see him trying to raise his helmet a bit so he can get the cup to his mouth. I managed to see his eyes a little bit and then went on the internet to see if I could find out who he is.

He's been outed since you were on the show and it turned out he was some bloke called Ben whom nobody had ever heard of. Apparently, yes.

Is it true that you turned down the opportunity to appear on Strictly Come Dancing? It is true, but I'm not sure if I'm allowed to say that ... although I have read it in a few different places, so it's probably OK.

Why Amy? Why would you pass up an opportunity to wear scanty sequinned frocks, learn the rhumba and hang out with Bruce Forsyth? I think I was too scared that I would find out I'm not able to dance.

You couldn't be any worse than Ann Widdecombe. Maybe, but after considering it for a while I finally decided it wasn't such a good idea. I am still an athlete and that's my job. I didn't want to look bad as a funded athlete taking a few months off the day job to appear on a TV show.

After winning at the Olympics, you were made a freeman of Bath. Does that mean you're allowed to graze your sheep on Main Square in front of the abbey? Or maybe dip them in the Roman Baths? I think I would have been a few hundred years ago, but technically I'm not allowed to do anything new. I tried to get free council tax, but they weren't really having it.

Have you done your Christmas shopping yet? No, I haven't had time.

Do you not think it's time you got on with it? [Laughs] Yes, you're right. I'll have to do it on my free day next week. This is the latest I've ever left it, mind.

Will you do yours Small Talk-style with a few clicks of a computer mouse or actually run the shop gauntlet? I'll go to the shops and hopefully have a very creative and inspired few hours.

What's the last movie you watched? The last movie I watched was ... the new Harry Potter film.

Are you a big fan of the bespectacled boy wizard? Well, I've seen all the movies, but that's because I'm a very keen cinema-goer. It's the people who've read all the books who are the really avid, keen fans.

Does a small part of you die whenever you see an adult engrossed in a Harry Potter book? Nooooo! I think they should be for everybody! There shouldn't be rules about reading books. No rules.

What kind of sports are you into, apart from the obvious? Well being a Bath girl, I always go and support the rugby boys if I'm around and they're playing.

Picture the scene: we're in a bar and Small Talk's getting the drinks in. What will you have? Oh, I can't remember the last time I went out for a drink, but if you're buying, I'll have a mojito.

A mojito? Bah! You're an expensive date. [Laughs] Sorry, but to be honest I hardly ever drink, so you can get me an orange juice instead.

What would you put in Room 101? Ooh, crikey. I don't think I'd put anything in there. I think anything that happens, good or bad, teaches you a lesson in some way and you move on and learn from it.

You're a very chirpy lady. Is that just for Small Talk's benefit or are you always this upbeat? Yeah, that's just me [Laughs].

If you could have a super power, what would it be? I'd love to be able to fly. I have quite a few dreams where I'm flying, but I don't know what they mean.

And finally, what will you be wearing to the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards on Sunday? That has yet to be bought or decided. Again, a bit last-minute ... [Laughs]

Surely designers are clamouring to get you into their duds for the big night? I wish they were, I really do, but generally it's just a quick dash into Bath to see what I can find that fits me.

You want to get your agent ringing around the fashion houses to get an expensive designer frock for you – there's still time. Oh Small Talk, it would be great if somebody just knocked on my door with a lovely dress and said "Here you go", but it just doesn't happen like that.

OK Amy, thanks for your time. Good luck at the awards and with the sliding. Thanks Small Talk, bye!

• Amy Williams is one of 10 nominees for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award. The winner will be announced after a public telephone vote at a televised ceremony staged at the Birmingham LG Arena on Sunday 19 December. To see how you can cast your vote, click here.