Matt Antoine is first U.S. skeleton slider to qualify for Olympics

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Sochi bronze medalist Matt Antoine qualified for his second Olympics as the U.S.’ top-ranked skeleton slider this season, according to TeamUSA.org.

He’s the first of up to five U.S. skeleton sliders who could be going to the Olympics. The rest of the team will be determined in the next two weeks.

So far, 98 athletes have qualified for the U.S. Olympic team, which should eclipse 200 athletes before the competition starts in PyeongChang on Feb. 7.

Antoine, 32, ranks seventh in World Cup standings this season with a top finish of seventh in six races.

The Olympic favorites are Latvian Martins Dukurs and South Korean Yun Sung-Bin, the top two ranked sliders each of the last three seasons.

Antoine took seventh at last season’s world championships and was 10th at the March World Cup at the PyeongChang Olympic track.

Antoine’s bronze medal from Sochi could be upgraded to silver after Russian gold medalist Aleksandr Tretiyakov was stripped and banned from the Olympics for life as part of his nation’s doping scandal. Tretiyakov has appealed and is still allowed to compete in World Cups.

Antoine said in 2015 that he was diagnosed with depression and that he nearly retired after Sochi.

“Everyone, at some point, needs help,” Antoine said then, according to The Associated Press. “At first I almost felt defeated that I had to seek medical and professional help. It felt like I had lost.

“I don’t feel that way anymore.”

Antoine bought a house in Phoenix, got a dog and regained control of his life.

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