Noelle Pikus-Pace

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

Leave a comment

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

Adam Jones, five-time MLB All-Star, becomes Olympic eligible

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Should the U.S. qualify for baseball’s Olympic return, a five-time MLB All-Star could be eligible for its roster in Tokyo. And he has interest.

Outfielder Adam Jones signed with the Orix Buffaloes of Japan’s domestic league, which, unlike MLB, will take an Olympic break next summer to allow players to take part in the first Olympic baseball tournament in 12 years.

Jones, 34, made no mention of Olympic eligibility in a social media post announcing the signing. His Instagram avatar is a photo of him in a Team USA jersey from the World Baseball Classic.

Jones’ agent later said that Jones does have interest in playing for the U.S. in Tokyo, should an American team qualify in the spring.

“To play over in Japan has always been a desire of Adam’s, and the timing worked out that the Olympics happens to be played in Tokyo the first year of his contract,” Jones’ agent wrote in an email. “It wasn’t one of the factors on his decision BUT more of a [sic] addition to the overall package to decide to go.”

Jones called being part of the U.S.’ 2017 WBC title, “probably the best experience of my life so far, especially with sports,” according to The Associated Press. He was one of five players to be on the U.S. team at each of the last two World Baseball Classics.

The U.S. still faces a difficult task to qualify for the Tokyo Games. It lost to Mexico last month in its first of up to three chances at qualifying tournaments, using a roster of mostly double-A and triple-A caliber players.

Major Leaguers are not expected to be made available for qualifying or for the Tokyo Games.

The next two qualifying tournaments will be in late March (an Americas qualifier in Arizona) and early April (a final, global qualifying event in Chinese Taipei). It remains to be seen how MLB clubs will go about releasing minor leaguers for a tournament that will take place during spring training.

Jones could become the third player with prior MLB All-Star experience to compete at the Olympics from any nation, joining Australian catcher Dave Nilsson and Canadian pitcher Jason Dickson.

Jones made five All-Star teams during an 11-year stint with the Baltimore Orioles from 2008-18 before playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks last season.

Many players competed at the Olympics before making an MLB All-Star team, including Stephen Strasburg and Jason Giambi.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Israel baseball turned to Shlomo Lipetz for the biggest out in program history

[twitter-follow screen_name=’nzaccardi’ show_count=’yes’ text_color=’00ccff’]

Russia boxers to boycott Olympics if sanctions not lifted

Getty Images
2 Comments

Russian boxers will only take part in the Tokyo Olympics if doping sanctions forcing them to compete as neutral athletes are overturned, the general secretary of the Russian Boxing Federation told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Umar Kremlev said he has spoken with the Olympic boxing team and they “unanimously” rejected the conditions laid out by the World Anti-Doping Agency as punishment for manipulating doping data.

The WADA sanctions, announced on Monday, ban the use of the Russian team name, flag or anthem at a range of major sports competitions over the next four years, including next year’s Olympics.

“They said we won’t go without our flag and anthem,” Kremlev said. “We aren’t going for medals, but for that feeling that I brought the highest honor home for my country.”

Separately, the speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament said Russia could create an alternative to the Olympics.

“This ruling show the clear crisis in international sports institutions. I believe that Russia could host its own games at home,” Valentina Matvienko said in comments reported by the Interfax news agency.

There is a precedent. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Soviet Union refused to compete in the Olympics and hosted its own Spartakiads — named after the ancient rebel slave Spartacus — with a strong socialist slant. However, the Soviet Union began competing at the Olympics in 1952 and Russians generally take great pride in the country’s Olympic achievements since then.

If the sanctions aren’t overturned, Kremlev said Russian boxers would prefer to turn pro rather than compete at the Olympics.

“A world champion (in professional boxing) is better known than an Olympic champion,” Kremlev said, adding the Russian anthem would be played before pro title fights.

Kremlev said boxers are being asked to shoulder the blame for offenses committed in other sports. He said they would still stay at home even if Russia’s athletes in other sports decided to take part.

“If other sports are guilty and people have breached the WADA code, why are we punished?” he said. “We are for honest sport and against doping. We want our sport to be clean … If someone breaks the rules, we push them out.”

Russia is a major power in amateur and Olympic boxing. It hosted both men’s and women’s world championships this year, finishing at the top of the medals table at the women’s event and second in the men’s championships. The International Olympic Committee has taken direct charge of boxing at the Tokyo Olympics after criticizing chronic financial problems and infighting at the International Boxing Association.

Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov talked up Russia’s chances of overturning the WADA sanctions.

“I think that there is every basis to appeal the decision, because our experts have presented their position, and they have the same database as WADA does,” Kolobkov said in comments reported by state news agency TASS. “There is an answer to every question and the whole process is ahead of us.”

The official decision on whether to dispute the sanctions will be made on Dec. 19 by the Russian anti-doping agency’s supervisory board, but senior figures, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, have signaled their preference for taking the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: IOC strips Olympic status from boxing body AIBA

[twitter-follow screen_name=’nbcolympictalk’ show_count=’yes’ text_color=’00ccff’]