Salt Lake native Zach Lund is starting to protect his home turf. After all, it was at the Utah Olympic Park track that he first learned to slide as a skeleton athlete, and it was on that Park City track that he spent years training and honing himself as a world-class athlete.
"I had something to prove," Lund said.
And prove himself he has. Lund, who was the overall skeleton World Cup champion in 2006-07, won for the second year in a row on his turf, sliding into first in the second World Cup race of the year on Thursday afternoon in Park City with runs of 48.87 and 49.54 seconds for a combined winning time of one minute and 38.41 seconds.
Coming in right behind Lund was teammate Eric Bernotas with a time of 1:38.66 after runs of 49.10 and 49.56.
"I’m pleased," Bernotas said. "It’s always nice when the U.S. can get on the podium."
The Americans did well despite snowy conditions that began during the second run, significantly slowing all of the racers.
"Mentally, snow plays more of a factor than physically," explained Bernotas.
In the women’s race it was Canadian Michelle Kelly taking the top spot just as she did last week on her home track in Calgary. Kelly won with a blazing 1:40.43 combined finish time with runs of 50.34 and 50.09. Kelley said she isn’t sure what the secret to her success is.
"I want to find out so I can bottle it," she laughed.
She suspects, though, it might be her laid-back approach.
"At the end of day, it’s just a race," she said.
America’s Katie Uhlaender slid in to second place, a nice recovery for last year’s overall World Cup champion after a seventh place last week in Calgary. Uhlaender had runs of 50.58 and 50.51 for a 1:41.09 finish.
"Its getting better and better," she said.
Last week in Calgary, was bit more difficult for both Lund and Uhlaender in their first World Cup race of the year. Both finished off of the podium and both left with a renewed focus on getting back to their World Cup Champion status.
"This week, all I was asking was to do my best," said Lund, who took 11th in Canada.
Uhlaender, who works periodically behind-the-scenes for the television show, "Survivor," spent the month before the season working on the show. With just two weeks of sliding under her belt, she was in a survivor mode herself to regain the training and focus to get back on the podium.
"I felt like I had been put in a blender," Uhlaender said.
For Lund, it was more of a mental block.
"Last week I wasn’t in the right frame of mind," he said.
But he said that his preparation and being back at home, has allowed his focus to become a lot clearer.
"I was putting a lot of pressure on myself," Lund said. "It was much easier with my family here to relax and smile."
Sliders from Great Britain both took third places with Amy Williams recording runs of 50.51 and 50.85 to combine for a 1:41.36 finish in the women’s race and Anthony Sawyer combining run times of 49:13 and 49:77 for 1:38.70 in the men’s race.
The track will be center stage once again on Saturday when Parkite Steve Holcomb tries to claim the top spot in the four-man bobsled race at 3 p.m.
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