By Duncan Mackay in Vancouver

February 19 - Amy Williams (pictured) ended Britain's 30-year wait for an individual Winter Olympics gold medal when she swept to victory in the women's skeleton here tonight but only after she had to endure an anxious five hour wait while officials listened to Canadian attempts to get her disqualified.

The 27-year-old from Bath, who had led after two runs at the Whistler Sliding Center last night, set a new track record of 53.68sec in her third run before taking gold on the fourth and final dash with a combined time of 3min 35.64sec.

Williams's gold came despite protests by, first, the United States and then Canada over the legality of her helmet, a complaint dismissed on each occasion by the sports governing body the International Federation of Bobsleigh and Tobogganing (FIBT).

Germany also complained.

They stood to gain the most from a succesful protest as Germany's Kerstin Szymkowiak finished second with compatriot Anja Huber third.

Two other unnamed teams also protested and claimed that Williams' helmet gave her an illegal aerodynamic advantage.

The US had appealed last night after the first two runs but that was rejected.

Canada then filed what, they claimed, was a more comprehensive complaint after the completion of the competition.

"Whenever someone is winning, someone always finds something to moan about," said Williams.

"The jury passed it [the helmet] days before.

"We all have the same helmets, the same stickers on it. 

After all the protests were over it  left Williams as Britain's first individual gold at a Winter Olympics since Robin Cousins won the men's figure skating title at Lake Placid in 1980.

"It's absolutely brilliant," said Williams. 

"It's out of this world."

Williams, on a sled she calls Arthur, was unstoppable in all four runs, leading from start to finish, to become Britain's first gold medallist in a sliding sport since Anthony Nash and Robin Dixon in the two-man bobsleigh in 1964.

She said: "Never in a million years did I think I'd come here and win gold.

"I don't think it will sink in for weeks and weeks.

"It's amazing to do this for my country.

"I had nothing to lose here and and I just went for it.

"I enjoyed every minute.

"I knew I had to just keep it together. 

"I can't remember what I did on the last run, half of the track is just a blur.

"I've done everything I possibly could in the last four years to get here and to put in my best performance."

Szymkowiak finished second at 0.56 back with compatriot Huber at 0.72.

Huber, for one, did not think that Williams should be disqualified.

Huber said: "It was the perfect performance.

"She's the right Olympic champion."

But there was huge disappointment for Canada's Mellisa Hollingsworth who finished fifth having dropped from second at the start of her fourth and final run to end up at 0.96 back.

"It is just really hard," Hollingsworth said, tears streaking her red cheeks.

"I feel like I have let my entire country down.

"It could have happened anywhere, at a World Cup... but it happened at the Olympic Games."

Britain's Shelley Rudman, who had claimed the silver medal in Turin four years ago, finished sixth having fought her way up into the medal contention and briefly led with the fastest final run, but was later over-taken by her rivals.

But the Briton added to the voices of concern at the notorious sliding track which claimed the life of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili last week in a training accident.

"The track is a bit hairy on corners 12 and 13," she said after her third run.

"I was almost on my back.

"I think that was just a little bit of extra speed."

Today’s result means Britain have won medals in skeleton at the last three Olympics, since the re-introduction of the sport to the programme.

Apart from Rudman in Turin, Alex Coomber won bronze at Salt Lake City in 2002.

Britain has medalled at every Olympic Winter Games to feature skeleton, with David Carnegie, the 11th Earl of Northesk, winning bronze in 1928 and John Crammond also winning bronze in 1948.

Williams’ gold was Britain's ninth gold in Olympic Winter Games history.

The last gold was won by the women’s curling team, led by Rhona Martin, in Salt Lake City.

The last woman to win an individual gold was Jeannette Altwegg, who won figure skating gold in Oslo in 1952.

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