Noelle Pikus-Pace (Orem, Utah) obliterated a 12-year track record by 0.17 seconds to claim the women's skeleton World Cup gold medal in front of a home crowd in Park City Friday morning. After a heartbreaking disqualification following her winning runs in last week's World Cup opener in Calgary, Canada, Pikus-Pace was determined to prove that nothing could stop her in the Olympic season.
"As I stood up there [at the start] the only thing going through my mind was that I'm going to throw it down and I'm going to bring it," Pikus-Pace said.
Bring it she did. Without any points this season, Pikus-Pace was last off in the first run start order. Ice conditions are optimal for the first competitors down the hill, and competitors that start later in the order often struggle to climb into the medals. That was not the case for Pikus-Pace, who climbed from 24th position into the lead after a record-breaking run of 49.80 seconds.
"It was incredible," she said. "This was the fastest ice I've ever been on here. I've been chasing this record for 15 years and to now lay it down on what will most definitely be my last run on this track is something pretty special to me."
The record didn't stand for long. Pikus-Pace not only maintained her lead in the final run, but extended it by 0.68 seconds with another record-breaking run of 49.74 seconds. Canada's Michelle Kelly set the former record, 49.91 seconds, in February 2001. Pikus-Pace had yet to win a World Cup on her home track until today, and she did so dominantly with a two-run total of 1 minute, 39.54 seconds.
"My husband built me an incredible sled and I have great sponsors. I have incredible support. Mentally I was a train wreck all week from high to low to high to low," Pikus-Pace said. "I am very fortunate to have a great husband, coaches, and trainers to help keep me focused."
Pikus-Pace was disqualified last weekend after her sled failed a post-race inspection due to extra tape around her handles.
"I know I have integrity and I know I would never do anything to jeopardize my reputation as well as those that support me," Pikus-Pace said. "I know when I compete I compete fair and I compete clean. I know I've given it my best whether I win or lose."
Elizabeth Yarnold from Great Britain was runner-up (1:40.22), and Canadian Sarah Reid was third (1:40.60).
Katie Uhlaender (Breckenridge, Colo.) is struggling with injuries sustained during a training run this fall. Uhlaender finished 14th with a combined time of 1:41.39.
Matt Antoine (Prairie du Chien, Wisc.) claimed his third-career World Cup medal after sliding a bronze medal performance in the men's race. Antoine was in third position after a first run of 48.95 seconds, sandwiched between Russians Alexander Tretiakov in second and Sergei Chudinov in fourth in a tight contest for a spot on the medal stand.
Antoine threw down the fastest time of the second heat, 48.78 seconds, to guarantee medal position with a combined time of 1:37.73.
Reigning World Cup champion Martins Dukurs, nicknamed "Superman" for his dominance in the sport, faltered Friday. After breaking the track record in the first run with a 48.58 second finish, Dukurs could only muster the seventh best time in the second heat. He dropped into second position with a total time of 1:37.71.