Antoine takes seventh

 

Prairie du Chien’s Antoine races 

to seventh in first World Cup event of season

The Olympic season commenced with the first World Cup event in Calgary, Canada, the site of the 1988 Winter Olympics. On Friday and Saturday, Nov. 29 and 30, the U.S. National Bobsled and Skeleton team participated in highly contested races that set the pace for the races leading up to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. After sweeping the skeleton selection races, Matt Antoine hoped to do well.

The men’s and women’s skeleton competition was the first race that was run on the 0.9165-mile track at Calgary.  Matt led the U.S. in the first men’s skeleton World Cup race of the 2013-2014 season with a seventh-place finish.  Matt was fourth after a first run time of 56.72 seconds and within striking distance of the medals, but the exit of the start groove threw his sled into the right wall before corner one in the second run and he was unable to make up time on the short course. The veteran clocked a combined time of 1:53.08 for seventh.

“It’s frustrating,” Matt said. “I showed all week in training that I was in contention. I was right there in the first run, so to have it fall away to something out of my control was disappointing. I know I’m sliding well and confident in my ability. I know it’s not the first race that matters this season; everyone is looking at building towards the last race in Sochi.” 

Four-time defending World Cup champion Martins Dukurs smashed an eight-year-old track record in the final heat with a run of 55.83 seconds en route to winning the season opener. The Latvian grabbed the first gold medal of the year by a huge margin of 0.75 seconds with a two-run total of 1:51.39. Alexander Tretiakov finished second with a total time of 1:52.14. Tretiakov lived up to his nickname, the “Russian rocket,” by breaking his own start record in the final heat with a push time of 4.71 seconds in the second run. Dominic Edward Parsons from Great Britain was the surprise third-place finisher with a total time of 1:52.74. 

Matt’s teammates had problems finding speed on the Calgary track. John Daly (Smithtown, N.Y.) hoped to start the season by cracking into the medals for the first time in his World Cup career, but he fell short with a 16th-place finish. Daly posted runs of 57.08 and 56.64 seconds for a combined time of 1:53.72.  Kyle Tress (Ewing, N.J.) slid a first run time of 57.30 seconds for 22nd position. He missed the top 20 cutoff for the final heat by just 0.09 seconds.

The U. S. women skeleton sliders also had problems in the race. Noelle Pikus-Pace  (Orem, Utah) started the race 0.04 seconds from the lead, but she posted her personal best start time, 5.55 seconds, and the fastest finish time of the race, 57.25, in the final heat to take over the lead. The former world champion clocked a total time of 1:54.88 to finish 0.16 seconds ahead of the field. Unfortunately, Pikus-Pace was disqualified when her sled failed to pass inspection per rule 14.5 following the competition.

Katie Uhlaender (Breckenridge, Colo.) raced conservative lines and clocked runs of 58.44 and 58.02 seconds for a total time of 1:56.46 for 12th place. She missed most of pre-season sliding after suffering a concussion during training for selection races. Uhlaender had a bye onto the national team, and she was cleared just a couple weeks ago to get back onto her sled.

The next World Cup race for the United States World Cup Bobsled and Skeleton Team will be held at Park City, Utah on Dec. 6 and 7.

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