Yulia Kanakina has fallen narrowly short of a first World Cup win as defending women’s skeleton champion Janine Flock edged her out by less than a fifth of a second in Latvia.

Racing in Sigulda – the setting for her Junior World Championships in 2017 – Yulia Kanakina came within a split second of a World Cup win.

In the final race of the calendar year in the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation competition, Kananina took her best World Cup finish and finished around 15 seconds quicker than she did at the previous race in Altenberg.

That also took her a place further on the podium following her third-placed finish in the previous race, sliding round in times of 52.46 and 52.35 seconds. Defending World Cup champion Janine Flock, of Austria, started the final as the leader after the first race and held on to her lead to pip Kananina by 0.17 seconds.

Dutchwoman Kimberley Bos finished third, with Russian Elena Nikitina in fifth, ahead of German Tina Hermann, who is the World Champion.

Kananina, 26, regularly keeps her following of almost 85,000 admirers up to speed with her high-velocity feats.

The Krasnoyarsk-born star showed herself receiving her medal alongside her rivals afterwards.

She has admitted in the past that she was initially scared of skeleton after giving up ballet to pursue the sport.

She now describes herself as “strong and hardy”, the possessor of a sweet tooth and a “grateful daughter and friend.”

Her burgeoning reputation as one of the most beautiful athletes in Russia has almost certainly helped her secure several sponsorship deals.

One of those is with sportswear giant Russia, for whom she modeled trainers against a bright pink studio backdrop earlier this year.

Kananina also headed to Dubai in April, where she pictured herself in swimwear leaving little to the imagination.

Ahead of an appearance in Austria, Kananina said skeleton training and competition posed “hundreds of obstacles”.

“Sometimes ice is thin,” she added on social media. “It is easy to surrender. But you have to be persistent. [The] inner voice [is] loud and clear. Hear it.”

At 32, Flock – the first Austrian to win overall gold – is substantially more experienced than Kananina.

Flock came fourth at the Winter Olympics in South Korea in 2018 and second at the World Championships two years earlier.

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