Antoine gets bronze

 

Bronze medal for Antoine

The second 2013-2014 World Cup race for bobsled and skeleton was held Dec. 6 and Dec. 7 at Park City, Utah, the site of the 2002 Winter Olympics. In those Winter Games, the sliding sport of skeleton returned to the Winter Olympics; skelton had not been part of the Winter Olympics since 1948. In 2002, Matt Antoine watched Jimmy Shay win the gold in skeleton for the United States, and Matt was hooked. The following summer, Matt began what would be many years of dedication to medal on the sliding track at Utah Olympic Park. He accomplished that goal this past Friday.

Matt arrived in Park City disappointed with his seventh place finish in the World Cup race held in Calgary, Alberta Canada the week before. He sat in fourth place after the first run but had a rough second run. He was upset and took the day after to reflect.  He met with the United States skeleton coaches and came up with a plan for the week. They changed the way he pushed his sled at the start of a race. The weather had become colder as the week progressed. Skeleton runners are round steel with only a slight cut to grip the ice.  There are many different cuts for different ice conditions and temperature. Knowing the race would be held in sub-zero temperatures, the night before the race Matt and the head U S coach decided to switch to a set of runners that Matt had never used before. All felt that Matt needed “to go-for-broke and not be conservative.”  

It paid off. After the first heat, Matt was in third position after a run of 48.95 seconds. He was sandwiched between the two Russian sliders with Alexander Tretiakov in second and Sergei Chudinov in fourth, only three-hundredths of a second behind Matt. Tomass Dukers of Latvia was in fifth position, five-hundredths of a second behind Matt. The slightest mistake by Matt in the second heat would take him out of the medals. Reigning World Cup champion Martins Dukers of Latvia, nicknamed “Superman” for his dominance in the sport of skeleton, had a comfortable lead.

Matt completed his second run in 48.78 seconds. Not only did Matt hold his third position, he clocked the fastest time of the second heat for a combined time of 1 minute 37.73 seconds. With that run, Matt solidified his third place and won a bronze medal, his first podium finish since a bronze in February 2012 in a World Cup event in St. Mortiz, Switzerland.  

“It feels great to be back on the podium,” said Matt. “Last season was really rough. I had my surgery in the middle of summer, and I really didn’t start training until the season began. Last year’s results were OK, but it was a step back from the prior year.” This summer Matt worked at training with no problems. “I worked at getting my push back, but also getting my confidence back. I knew the sliding was still there.”

Alexander Tretiakov of Russia won the race with a combined time of 1:37:59 seconds upsetting Martins Dukers. Dukers had problems on his second run and had only the seventh best time. He dropped into second place. Only 14 hundredths of a second separated Matt and Tretiakov.

Other United States World Cup bobsled and skeleton sliders did well at Park City. Noelle Pikus-Pace slid to gold in women’s skeleton.

The four-man bobsled piloted by Steve Holcomb won their race, and Holcomb also piloted, with Chris Fogt as brakeman, the two-man bobsled to gold. The two-man bobsled piloted by Nick Cunningham, with Dallas Robinson, went silver. Elana Meyers and Aja Evans were gold in the two-women bobsled race, and Jamie Gruebel and her brakewoman Katie Eberling slid to bronze.

The third World Cup race will be held Dec. 13 and 14 in Lake Placid, New York.

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