first career World Cup gold medal, moves closer to an Olympic Team berth
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. - Matt Antoine of Prairie du Chien won his first-career World Cup gold medal to complete a Team USA sweep of the skeleton and bobsled races on Friday.
In winning, Antoine has taken a huge step towards a spot on the United States Olympic Team, which will be competing in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia in February. In fact, Antoine is fast becoming the United States’ best chance to medal in the men’s skeleton at the Olympics. The official announcement of who will be on the U.S. Team will be made on Jan. 20.
Antoine worked up to his victory this season with seventh and third-place finishes in the first two World Cups before Friday. There are four World Cup races left this season: Winterberg, St. Moritz, Igls and Konigssee, which will help determine who will make the U.S. Winter Olympic Team.
Antoine has claimed three World Cup bronze medals since joining the circuit in 2009, and has been steadily working towards climbing the podium. He succeeded Friday by a whopping 0.63 seconds.
“I don’t typically yell coming up the outrun, but I did on that one,” Antoine said. “It was a really great moment.”
Antoine was in the lead after posting a first run of 53.89 seconds, a slim 0.04 seconds ahead of the field. Antoine said the wait between runs was agonizing.
“I did a lot of walking around,” Antoine said. “I didn’t want to just sit around. I just tried to focus on other things but putting on music and walking to the start and back a few times.”
Antoine kept his composure and didn’t just maintain his lead, but extended it to 0.63 seconds with a final run of 53.69 seconds for a total time of 1:47.58.
“I don’t know how to explain what I’m feeling,” Antoine said. “I was disappointed in the first run because I left a lot of time on the top of the track with the mistakes that I made. Despite being in the lead, one of the focuses on the second heat was cleaning up the runs. I knew in my mind that I had cleaned up the run and I had it.”
John Daly (Smithtown, N.Y.) was once again on the cusp of medaling with a fourth-place finish. Daly was in second after a first run of 53.93 seconds, but fell back two spots to Russian Alexander Tretiakov and Latvian Tomass Dukurs in the final run. Tretiakov earned silver with a total time of 1:48.21, while Dukurs clocked a two-run total of 1:48.34 for bronze. Daly was edged out of the medals by a mere 0.03 seconds with a combined time of 1:48.37.
“Fourth place keeps me in the hunt,” Daly said. “I wanted that medal. Another fourth place is tough. The coaches really believed in me this week and they knew I could do well. They kept telling me to stay relaxed and go with it. I wish I could have done better, but it was still a great showing for the U.S. and I’m really proud of Matt.”
Kyle Tress (Ewing, N.J.) nearly replicated his best World Cup finish, which was fifth in Lake Placid last season, after finishing seventh Friday. Tress was tied with reigning World Cup champion Martins Dukurs after clocking a first run of 54.21 seconds, and was able to better Dukurs in the final heat, but Canadian John Fairburn posted the third fastest time of the heat to move ahead of Tress. The American finished seventh with a total time of 1:48.57.