LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (AP) — Annie O’Shea waited more than four years for her second World Cup medal. And for the U.S. women’s skeleton program, it was an unusually long time between podium trips as well.
The droughts ended Friday, when O’Shea captured gold at Mount Van Hoevenberg.
A brilliant second run vaulted O’Shea into the lead, and the only two sliders who had a chance to beat her couldn’t find enough speed when they needed it on the demanding Lake Placid track. That left O’Shea yelping and jumping for joy, winning her first medal on the circuit since Dec. 10, 2011 and giving the U.S. women’s team its first World Cup win since Noelle Pikus-Pace prevailed in the 2013-14 season finale.
“I’m surprised at how hard it is to put into words,” O’Shea said. “You’d think like you’d know exactly what it would feel like to win, but you really don’t. When I came down and saw the clock say ‘1’ after me I was like, ‘OK, I’m guaranteed third.’ And I was really happy with that.”
But when Switzerland’s Marina Gilardoni didn’t match O’Shea’s time, then silver was guaranteed. And when Britain’s Laura Deas — the final competitor — fell behind O’Shea’s split times, the American knew a World Cup gold would finally be hers.
O’Shea’s two-run time was 1 minute, 50.34 seconds. Gilardoni finished second in 1:50.43, and Britain’s Laura Deas was third in 1:50.59. World Cup leader Tina Hermann of Germany was fourth.
It was a breakthrough for O’Shea, whose average finish in World Cup races before Friday was 13th.
And the seeds for this win were planted over the summer, far away from any sort of track or training.
After a close childhood friend died early last year after a long battle with heart problems, O’Shea found out that she had been working with a life coach. A couple months later O’Shea made the decision to enlist one of her own, looking for ways to separate her everyday life from her athlete life. Going through that process, O’Shea said, has left her more confident than ever.
“I have never been so happy and literally proud of myself,” O’Shea said.
Happy, and healthy, too. Knee surgery after the 2011-12 season derailed her for the better part of the next couple years. That’s no longer a concern, and working on herself has taught her how to avoid carrying stress and problems from the real world onto the track.
There were no problems Friday. When the race was over, she wrapped U.S. coach Zach Lund in a huge hug, then leapt into coach Tuffy Latour‘s arms when he emerged on the finish deck a few minutes later.
“As Tuffy says, ‘Trust the process,'” O’Shea said. “And I definitely did this year.”