Ashleigh Pittaway competed for Britain at the IBSF World Championships in Altenberg in February this year ©Getty Images

Britain's 21-year-old skeleton athlete Ashleigh Pittaway, who clinched gold at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer in Norway, has announced her retirement from the sport.

Pittaway said in a post on her Instagram account that she had taken the "difficult" decision in order to "prioritize my happiness and look after my mental health."

"It will give me the space I need to look to a future away from sport and to turn my back towards all the battles I have been dealing with," she added.

The Youth Olympic gold medallist said the support of her family and friends had helped her make "the right decision".

The British athlete triumphed in the girls' event at Lillehammer 2016, and went on to earn two bronze medals at the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) World Junior Championships, including at St Moritz this year.

Pittaway appeared at 13 IBSF World Cup events from 2016 to 2019, and also earned medals at the IBSF Intercontinental Cup and North America Cup in January 2019.

She featured at the IBSF World Championships in Altenberg in Germany in February, finishing seventh with Marcus Wyatt in the mixed competition in what proved to be her last skeleton race.

"Since the age of nine and now after 12-years relentlessly pursuing a career in skeleton, the time has come for me to step away," Pittaway said of her career.

"I have made many wonderful memories competing in this incredible sport and none greater than at the Youth Olympic Games in 2016, when I was crowned champion in Lillehammer, Norway.

"Even at the end of a troubled season, not just with a pandemic, I was enormously proud to compete at the World Championships 2021 in Altenberg, Germany."

Pittaway now plans to travel before applying to study fine art at university next year.

She thanked her teammates "from the bottom of my heart" as well as everyone who supported her throughout her career, and wished the British team well for the 2021-2022 season, which includes the Winter Olympic Games in the Chinese capital Beijing from February 4 to 20 next year.