Amy Williams goes back to school on Olympics victory tour of Bath

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City comes out to celebrate as skeleton bob champion brings home Winter Olympics gold medal
Amy Williams on an open-top bus tour of Bath
Amy Williams, centre in red, on an open-top bus tour of Bath. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images
Amy Williams, centre in red, on an open-top bus tour of Bath. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images
Wed 3 Mar 2010 11.12 EST

She won her gold medal by racing headfirst down a track at up to 90mph on a skeleton bob called Arthur. Today Amy Williams's victory tour of her home city on an open-topped bus was taken at a more stately pace.

It was just as well. Bath, more famous for muddy games of rugby than sports on ice and snow, came out in force to get a glimpse of Britain's first Winter Olympics individual gold medallist since the skater Robin Cousins in 1980.

The ceremonials began at Williams's school, Hayesfield, in Oldfield Park, a mile south of the city. "She was always sporty, she would play in any team," said her old sports teacher Lynn Young as she waited for her most famous former pupil. "She had dedication and commitment, she was the perfect student for a PE teacher."

Like many at the school and in Bath, Young had had mixed feelings as she watched Williams compete. "It was: 'Be faster, be faster but be safe too.' It was a bit scary but then there was such elation. It was weird watching this person you actually know.

"I don't think the girls here quite believe it, that she was a pupil here, that she sat in these classrooms and used the facilities we have. It's a total inspiration to them. For us in PE it's a dream come true."

Young said the winter sports at Hayesfield were hockey and girls' football. "Unfortunately not skeleton bob," she said.

The excitement reached fever pitch when Williams was spotted. One of the pupils, Louisa, said the whole place had been "buzzing with excitement" since Williams's triumph. "We were all cheering her on," she said. "It's a sporty school. I like playing netball, badminton and swimming."

Skeleton bob? "I'd like to try that, I think it's going to encourage many people to start."

Her friend Ruby added: "I thought it was really amazing. I wouldn't like to do it myself. It looks really scary."

Finally Williams arrived to applause and cheers, the hefty gold medal shining brightly against her red, white and blue Great Britain tracksuit. In the library Louisa, Ruby and some of their classmates managed to scoop the gaggle of journalists to grab the first interview of the day with Williams.

She told the girls how she had started eight years ago. "A quick eight years," she said. How had she felt at the top of the track before her final run? "I felt nervous but I was there to enjoy it," said Williams. "I was there to have fun. I just took a deep breath and just went down."

Someone asked what her "best Hayesfield memory" was. PE was the answer. "Playing all the sport, hockey, netball. Being part of the school bus going off to do a race or competition."

The final question was whether she would cut the ribbon when the school's new sports facility, currently a building site, was opened. "Absolutely," she said.

Williams was whisked off to the school hall and another ecstatic welcome from teachers and girls. And then on to the bus, which is usually used to show visitors the sights of Bath.

Sharing the day were Williams's mother and father, Ian and Jan. "I'm proud in several ways," Mr Williams said, "Proud as a father, proud as a resident of Bath which has a habit of producing all sorts of interesting people. Proud because I work at the university and the university has had such a role in this in providing support to British skeleton. It's quite a day."

The bells of Bath Abbey rang out as the bus made its way around the Georgian city. Union flags were waved from balconies and street corners. Tea drinkers at the city's famous watering holes put down their china for a few moments to cheer her on.

"We've come to see our girl," said one bystander May, 65. "We like all sports. We're very proud of her." Would she be going to the next Winter Olympics? "I don't think so – too cold. We'll watch Amy on the telly."

The tour finished at the Guildhall, where a reception in the mayor's parlour was taking place. She was to be granted the freedom of the city and was then off to a party at the University of Bath, where she trains. Another long night for Bath's new queen of speed and all her supporters seemed on the cards.