Correction: Noelle Pikus-Pace disqualified after finishing first in skeleton World Cup opener

Noelle Pikus-Pace
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This story has been updated after it was announced Noelle Pikus-Pace was disqualified one hour after finishing first in Calgary, Alberta. 

American Noelle Pikus-Pace was disqualified after winning the first skeleton event of the World Cup campaign in Calgary, Alberta, on Friday.

Pikus-Pace, who retired and had a baby boy after finishing fourth at the 2010 Olympics, came from behind after the first of two runs to beat Brit Lizzy Yarnold in 1 minute, 54.88 seconds.

The British protested Pikus-Pace’s result, and the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation (USBSF) appealed. At the 2010 Olympics, British slider Amy Williams kept her gold medal after protests from nations including the U.S. The aerodynamics of Williams’ helmet were questioned, but the FIBT denied the protests.

A Bobsleigh Canada official said Pikus-Pace’s disqualification was due to an illegal sled.

This was posted on Pikus-Pace’s Facebook page Friday night:

“My heart is broken. I just won gold in the first world cup and have been disqualified due to a protest from the British team. My sled was cleared by the international federation for competition but without a warning they disqualified me for having 3 pieces of tape on my handle to help me push my sled, which many athletes do. So so sad and disappointed that thousands of hours of training come down to a protest and decision for 3 pieces of non performance enhancing tape. I would have obviously removed it if they had told me in my sled inspection that it was wrong in any way. Thank you all for your love and support!”

U.S. assistant coach and 2010 Olympian Zach Lund said Pikus-Pace’s sled passed inspection early in the week, and there were no changes made to the sled between inspection and the race, according to USBSF. The tape was the size of a nickel, on the handle of her sled, he said.

“It’s a travesty,” Lund said. “There’s no competitive advantage, and we are really disappointed.”

source:

Russian Yelena Nikitina was third, and American Katie Uhlaender was 13th.

Pikus-Pace was .04 of a second behind after the opening run, but her 57.25 in the second run was .16 faster than anybody else Friday.

“I could feel the speed,” Pikus-Pace said. “My head got sucked down … so I knew it was fast coming out of there. I just didn’t know how fast it was.”

Before her DQ, it appeared Pikus-Pace made the podium in a sixth straight international race, including a silver at the World Championships last season, her first season competing since the Vancouver Olympics.

Latvian Martins Dukurs won the men’s race in 1:51.39, .75 of a second ahead of Russian world champion Aleksander Tretiakov. Dukurs is the reigning World Cup champion and set a track record in his second run. Tretiakov, the “Russian rocket,” set a track start record.

Americans Matthew Antoine and John Daly were seventh and 16th, respectively. Kyle Tress was 22nd and did not qualify for the second run. Antoine fell from fourth after the first run.

“It’s frustrating,” Antoine said, according to the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation. “I showed all week in training that I was in contention.  I was right there in the first run, so to have it fall away to something out of my control was disappointing. I know I’m sliding well and confident in my ability. I know it’s not the first race that matters this season; everyone is looking at building towards the last race in Sochi.”

The skeleton World Cup season continues in Park City, Utah, next week.

Calgary Skeleton

Women
1. Lizzy Yarnold (GBR) 1:55.04
2. Yelena Nikitina (RUS) 1:55.28
3. Michelle Steele (AUS) 1:55.30
13. Katie Uhlaender (USA) 1:56.46
DQ. Noelle Pikus-Pace (USA)

Men
1. Martins Dukurs (LAT) 1:51.39
2. Aleksander Tretiakov (RUS) 1:52.14
3. Dom Parsons (GBR) 1:52.74
7. Matthew Antoine (USA) 1:53.08
16. John Daly (USA) 1:53.72
22. Kyle Tress (USA) 57.3o

Bobsled/skeleton season storylines

NFL star Jared Allen’s team beats Olympic champions at curling nationals

Jared Allen
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Retired NFL star Jared Allen was part of a curling team that beat 2018 Olympic champion John Shuster to open the U.S. Championships in Denver on Sunday night.

Allen, who retired from the NFL in 2016 and picked up curling in 2018, is on 2010 Olympian Jason Smith‘s team, which beat Shuster’s team 10-6 in the first game of round-robin play.

After all eight teams play each other, the top four advance to Friday’s playoffs. The winner of Saturday’s final is national champion and is expected to be the U.S. team for the world championship in Ottawa in April.

Allen, 40, said before nationals that he is eyeing the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Olympics, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

“I thought curling was going to be a lot easier than it was,” Allen, whose team at the last nationals in 2021 went 0-9, told the newspaper. “But I’m one of those guys who, once I start something, I’m going to see it through. Our goal at nationals is to beat as many teams as we possibly can and see where we land.”

How big of an upset was Sunday’s result? Ken Pomeroy rated Smith’s team fifth in the eight-team field before the tournament, while he had Shuster’s team second behind Korey Dropkin.

Shuster’s team won the last three nationals that they entered, plus the last two Olympic Trials since the bulk of the team formed for the 2015 season. Shuster went 11-0 at his last nationals in 2020, then 11-2 at the 2022 Olympic Trials, where the younger Dropkin beat him twice but ultimately lost in the finals series.

Allen was first linked to serious curling in February 2018 via U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer Lou Nanne on a Minnesota ESPN radio show. Nanne said Allen told him at a dinner.

“[Allen] says, ‘I’m giving myself four years to make the Olympic curling team,’” said Nanne, a 1968 U.S. Olympian.

Allen, along with retired quarterback Marc Bulger, first played on a team with 2010 Olympian John Benton and fellow veteran curler Hunter Clawson.

Allen’s new team includes Smith, who played on the 2010 Olympic team skipped by Shuster, Clawson and Dominik Maerki.

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U.S. Alpine skiers wear climate change-themed race suits at world championships

U.S. Alpine Skiing Team Race Suit
Images via Kappa
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Looking cool is just the tip of the iceberg for Mikaela Shiffrin, Travis Ganong and the rest of the U.S. ski team when they debut new race suits at the world championships.

Even more, they want everyone thinking about climate change.

The team’s predominantly blue-and-white suits depict an image of ice chunks floating in the ocean. It’s a concept based on a satellite photo of icebergs breaking due to high temperatures. The suit was designed in collaboration with Kappa, the team’s technical apparel sponsor, and the nonprofit organization Protect Our Winters (POW).

The Americans will wear the suits throughout the world championships in Courchevel and Meribel, France, which started Monday with a women’s Alpine combined race and end Feb. 19.

“Although a race suit is not solving climate change, it is a move to continue the conversation and show that U.S Ski & Snowboard and its athletes are committed to being a part of the future,” said Sophie Goldschmidt, the president and CEO of U.S. Ski & Snowboard.

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Global warming has become a cold, hard reality in ski racing, with mild temperatures and a lack of snow leading to the postponement of several World Cup events this winter.

“I’m just worried about a future where there’s no more snow. And without snow, there’s no more skiing,” said Ganong, who grew up skiing at Lake Tahoe in California. “So this is very near and dear to me.”

What alarms Ganong is seeing the stark year-to-year changes to some of the World Cup circuit’s most storied venues.

“I mean, it’s just kind of scary, looking at how on the limit (these events) are even to being possible anymore,” said Ganong, who’s been on the U.S. team since 2006. “Places like Kitzbuehel (Austria), there’s so much history and there’s so much money involved with that event that they do whatever they can to host the event.

“But that brings up a whole other question about sustainability as well: Is that what we should be doing? … What kind of message do we need show to the public, to the world, about how our sport is adapting to this new world we live in?”

The suits feature a POW patch on the neck and the organization’s snowflake logo on the leg.

“By coming together, we can educate and mobilize our snowsports community to push for the clean energy technologies and policies that will most swiftly reduce emissions and protect the places we live and the lifestyles we love,” according to a statement from executive director Mario Molina, whose organization includes athletes, business leaders and scientists who are trying to protect places from climate change.

Ganong said a group of ski racers are releasing a letter to the International Ski Federation (FIS), with the hope the governing body will take a stronger stance on sustainability and climate change.

“They should be at the forefront of trying to adapt to this new world, and try to make it better, too,” Ganong said.

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U.S. Alpine Skiing Team Race Suit