Noelle Pikus-Pace wins shortened skeleton World Cup finale

Noelle Pikus-Pace
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There were eight women’s World Cup skeleton races this season. The U.S.’ Noelle Pikus-Pace won four. Great Britain’s Lizzy Yarnold won four.

No doubt, this will be the most anticipated head-to-head in sliding sports in Sochi.

Pikus-Pace won the World Cup finale in Konigssee, Germany, in 52.92 seconds on Friday. Snow poured on the track, shortening the race to one heat.

“I woke up this morning and saw the snow and thought, ‘Well, it’s what we do, it’s part of the sport,'” Pikus-Pace said, according to the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation. “You have to adapt.”

The Utah native prevailed by a comfortable .44 over Austrian Janine Flock. Brit Shelley Rudman was third.

Yarnold was a startling ninth, her first non-podium of the season, but still wrapped up the World Cup title.

Pikus-Pace, 31, finished fourth at the 2010 Olympics, retired, gave birth to her second child and came out of retirement for last season. The 2007 world champion is sliding better than ever and would have won five races this season if she had not been disqualified for illegal tape on her sled in the November opener.

Pikus-Pace’s maternal grandfather passed away this week. Her brother and sponsors surprised her by showing up to Friday’s race.

“I struggled a lot this week,” said Pikus-Pace, who plans to retire after Sochi. “I didn’t take as many runs as I planned because I was having a difficult time focusing. It’s been very hard not being home right now. I was just hoping for a top-six finish here, and I am grateful to have finished with the win.”

Yarnold, too, is at a career peak. The 24-year-old had never been in the top three of the World Cup standings before this season. She and Rudman look to win Britain’s second straight Olympic gold after the retirement of Vancouver champion Amy Williams.

The Sochi Olympic women’s skeleton event will be Feb. 13-14.

Konigssee Women’s Skeleton
1. Noelle Pikus-Pace (USA) 52.92
2. Janine Flock (AUT) 53.36
3. Shelley Rudman (GBR) 53.42
11. Katie Uhlaender (USA) 54.40

Staten Island man, 46, and wife will ski for Dominica at Sochi