Antoine family, friends headed to Russia

Antoine presentation
Mary Antoine gives a presentation to adults and children about her son Matt and the sport of skeleton in the Prairie du Chien Public Library Saturday morning.

 

The road to Russia

Antoine family and friends gearing up for trip to Winter Olympics

By Ted Pennekamp

 

Prairie du Chien’s Mary Antoine, along with six family members and friends, will be trackside to cheer on Mary’s son Matt as he races in the skeleton at the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

“We have gotten a lot of phone calls, comments, e-mails, a lot of support,” said Mary after news spread in recent days that Matt was named to the United States Olympic Skeleton Team. “People have been really, really nice and going out of their way to show their support.” 

Other members of the excited group traveling to Russia include Mary’s son Nick DeJulio, Nick’s girlfriend and her parents, Mary’s sister Margaret, and Matt’s girlfriend Anna Palmer who has been a World Cup competitor in judo. 

Mary said that she hasn’t seen her son Matt since Christmas and she won’t be spending any time with him in Sochi either because all of the athletes need to stay focused and have as few distractions as possible.

Mary has watched many of Matt’s races through the years, but watching him compete in the Olympics should provide an extra thrill. “I’ll probably get a little extra nervous,” she said. “I felt really happy for him when he was named to the Olympic Team because it’s been 11 years of really hard work.”

Hopefully, all of that hard work will pay off, and the next time Mary visits with Matt he will be an Olympic medalist, which is certainly possible because he is now ranked third in the world and has beaten the world’s best earlier this season in World Cup competition when he won the gold medal in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Mary and her group will be leaving on Feb. 3 and will get back about Feb. 19. Sochi, which has a population of 400,000, is next to the Black Sea and there is a 10-hour time difference between Sochi and Prairie du Chien. The group will not be staying in Sochi, but rather in a village hotel in the mountains about 30 miles away and near what is known as the Mountain Cluster where several competitions will take place. 

Within the Mountain Cluster is the Sanki Sliding Center where bobsled, luge and skeleton competitions are held. Other events in the Mountain Cluster will be Alpine skiing, snowboarding, cross country skiing and biathlon.

Mary said that there will be plenty of time to take in the sights and the local culture as well as various Olympic competitions. “I’m really looking forward to the opening ceremonies,” said Mary. “I want to see all of the athletes from all of the countries because of knowing Matt and knowing how much effort they put into it. It will be really special.” Mary also has tickets for skiing, hockey and figure skating. 

Spectators at events need tickets as well as spectator’s passes which are displayed outside of one’s clothing. Mary said that she isn’t concerned with possible terrorist activities. She noted, however, that the United States Olympic Committee has gotten the word out that visitors should remain low key while taking in the sights.

In his last World Cup competition of the season, Matt Antoine finished fourth on Saturday in Koenigssee, Germany, missing a medal by .16 seconds. He and his teammates are now in Munich, Germany from which they will soon depart for Sochi. 

Matt finished in third place in the World Cup season standings with 1,529 points. He is the first American man to end the season in the top three since current U.S. assistant coach Zach Lund was third in 2007-2008. Martins Dukurs of Latvia finished in first with 1,720 points, 112 more than his brother Tomass Dukurs who was second.

“Matt has consistently been in the mix for the medals or on the podium every week,” said U.S. skeleton coach Tuffy Latour. “He’s really made a big turnaround this season and we as a coaching staff we couldn’t be prouder.” 

Antoine, 28, spent last season recovering from knee surgery and stepped up his game as soon as he was back to maximum fitness. Antoine, who had just two career World Cup medals heading into the season, went on to win three medals this season, including the gold on his home track in Lake Placid, N.Y.

“That Lake Placid victory put him in a place where he realized he could win medals,” Latour said. “Matt has had such a phenomenal season, and I don’t think we’ve even seen the tip of the iceberg of what he’s capable of doing.”

Matt said that he was pleased with his race on Saturday. He said that he felt good and likes the way things are lining up or Sochi.

The men’s skeleton in the 2014 Winter Olympics will be held on Friday, Feb. 14 and Saturday, Feb. 15. There will be two heats each day and the competitor with the fasted combined time of all four heats will win the gold medal.

Everyone in Prairie du Chien and the surrounding area will sure to be cheering Matt on as he goes for the gold.

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