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

Olympian Derrick Mein ends U.S. men’s trap drought at shotgun worlds

Derrick Mein
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Tokyo Olympian Derrick Mein became the first U.S. male shooter to win a world title in the trap event since 1966, prevailing at the world shotgun championships in Osijek, Croatia, on Wednesday.

Mein, who grew up on a small farm in Southeast Kansas, hunting deer and quail, nearly squandered a place in the final when he missed his last three shots in the semifinal round after hitting his first 22. He rallied in a sudden-death shoot-off for the last spot in the final by hitting all five of his targets.

He hit 33 of 34 targets in the final to win by two over Brit Nathan Hales with one round to spare.

The last U.S. man to win an Olympic trap title was Donald Haldeman in 1976.

Mein, 37, was 24th in his Olympic debut in Tokyo (and placed 13th with Kayle Browning in the mixed-gender team event).

The U.S. swept the Tokyo golds in the other shotgun event — skeet — with Vincent Hancock and Amber English. Browning took silver in women’s trap.

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Mo Farah withdraws before London Marathon

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British track legend Mo Farah withdrew before Sunday’s London Marathon, citing a right hip injury before what would have been his first 26.2-mile race in nearly two years.

Farah, who swept the 2012 and 2016 Olympic track titles at 5000m and 10,000m, said he hoped “to be back out there” next April, when the London Marathon returns to its traditional month after COVID moved it to the fall for three consecutive years. Farah turns 40 on March 23.

“I’ve been training really hard over the past few months and I’d got myself back into good shape and was feeling pretty optimistic about being able to put in a good performance,” in London, Farah said in a press release. “However, over the past 10 days I’ve been feeling pain and tightness in my right hip. I’ve had extensive physio and treatment and done everything I can to be on the start line, but it hasn’t improved enough to compete on Sunday.”

Farah switched from the track to the marathon after the 2017 World Championships and won the 2018 Chicago Marathon in a then-European record time of 2:05:11. Belgium’s Bashir Abdi now holds the record at 2:03:36.

Farah returned to the track in a failed bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, then shifted back to the roads.

Sunday’s London Marathon men’s race is headlined by Ethiopians Kenenisa Bekele and Birhanu Legese, the second- and third-fastest marathoners in history.

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