Antoine earns bronze in St. Moritz

Antoine earns bronze
Tomass Dukurs, Martins Dukurs and Matt Antoine stand on the victory podium Friday.

 

Antoine slides 

to Bronze at St. Moritz

The Bobsled and Skeleton World Cup tour made its fifth stop in St. Moritz, Switzerland Jan. 10-12 on the world’s only natural ice track. Each season, a crew of ice workers from the Tyrol region constructs the Olympia Bobrun. They move in and shape and sculpt snow for just over three weeks to create the 1,722-meter long track that stretches from St. Moritz to Celerina. Since the track is built from scratch, there are small nuances of change in the course each year. St. Moritz is the birthplace of bobsleigh and skeleton and is the only natural track that hosts international competition. The first men’s skeleton race was held on Friday, Jan. 10.

Matt Antoine solidified himself as a medal favorite for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games after claiming bronze, his third medal this season, in the St. Moritz men’s skeleton World Cup. Kyle Tress (Ewing, N.J.) had a breakthrough performance by matching his career-best fifth-place finish from Lake Placid, N.Y. last season with a fifth-place result Friday.

“It’s really nice to see two of our athletes in the top six results,” said Tuffy Latour, U.S. skeleton head coach. “What a great race for Matt and Kyle and it’s a good day to be a coach.”

Matt was disappointed with his first push time of 5.05 seconds, but a nearly perfect run of 1:09.90 put him in third, just 0.02 seconds from silver medal position. Matt improved his start time by 0.11 seconds in the final heat to make up ground against the competition in a sport measured by hundredths of a second. He made a few mistakes on the bottom section of the course, but Matt held onto third place with a two-run total of 2:19.98. When he came to the end of his second run, he commented to his coach, “That was not a good run.”

“I was a little surprised to hold onto third,” Matt said. “I was disappointed with my first push, but I had a good drive that kept me in position to medal. I made up time in my push on the second run, but made some mistakes on the bottom. Fortunately, with a better push I could afford those mistakes to keep my spot, but it put me out of contention for moving up.”

After recovering from knee surgery last season, Matt was hungry to regain top form and has been a staple on the men’s skeleton podium this year. He claimed bronze in Park City, Utah, earned his first career World Cup victory in Lake Placid, N.Y., and was on the cusp of medaling last week with a fourth-place finish. 

“Things are going well and it’s coming together,” Matt said. “I want to keep progressing from here. It’s nice to be consistent, and I now expect to be in medal contention week in and week out.”

Tress was in sixth place after a first run 1:10.22 and was eager to maintain position or move up in the final heat. He clocked a consistent time of 1:10.28, which was fast enough to help him gain one spot. Tress jumped into fifth with a two-run total of 2:20.50 to match his career-best finish.

It was a battle of the Latvian brothers for gold and silver. Martins Dukurs was victorious once again with a total time of 2:19.18. Tomass Dukurs led after the first run, but fell back 0.26 seconds to his brother in the final heat into second place with a combined time of 2:19.44. 

John Daly (Smithtown, N.Y.) had a rough exit at the corner of Horseshoe and a troubling bottom half of the course before clocking the 23rd fastest time of the first heat, 1:11.21. Daly unfortunately did not qualify for the second heat, but he’ll get another chance to podium in St. Moritz with a second men’s skeleton race on Sunday. All three U.S. men’s skeleton athletes are looking forward to another chance to race on the world’s only natural ice track again.

“This is such a unique track,” Matt said. “It’s smooth and quiet on the natural ice and unlike anything else in the world. Coming here you’re reminded of why you love the sport and feel like a kid sledding on a hill again.”

The skeleton Olympic team nomination is just eight days away. The team will be named following the Igls, Austria World Cup races to be held on Jan. 18-19.

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