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U.S. Olympic skeleton team finalized

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Katie Uhlaender is going to a record fourth Olympics for a U.S. skeleton slider and looking for either her first or second Olympic medal.

The 33-year-old was one of four athletes named to the U.S. Olympic skeleton team on Monday, joining Sochi bronze medalist Matt Antoine, 2010 and 2014 Olympian John Daly and first-time Olympian Kendall Wesenberg.

Uhlaender placed fourth in Sochi, .04 behind Russian bronze medalist Elena Nikitina.

Nikitina’s bronze medal was stripped last year due to doping, and she was barred from the Olympics for life, though she is appealing. Uhlaender waits to see if she will be upgraded from fourth place to bronze.

Antoine, too, could be upgraded since Aleksandr Tretiyakov was stripped of his gold.

Daly was in fourth place after three of four runs in Sochi but finished 15th after slipping at the start of his final run.

He came out of a two-year retirement in 2016, hoping for another chance to author a different ending to his Olympic career.

Wesenberg, 27, is the only American slider to earn a World Cup medal since the start of 2017.

She first learned of the sport while watching bobsled during the 2010 Olympics. Wesenberg finished her degree at Colorado, where she played club soccer, and moved to Utah in 2012 to pursue skeleton.

The best World Cup finish for any American this season is seventh.

The Olympic men’s gold-medal favorites are South Korean Yun Sung-bin and Latvian Martins Dukurs. The top women are Germans Jacqueline Loelling and Tina Hermann and Canadians Elisabeth Vathje and Mirela Rahneva.

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MORE: Host South Korea seeks Olympic sliding breakthrough in skeleton

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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MORE: Ghana, Nigeria skeleton racers set for Olympic berths

More Russian doping means Steven Holcomb’s medals will be upgraded

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Steven Holcomb remains a winner of three Olympic medals. He will have held only one of them.

Another round of International Olympic Committee sanctions against Russian athletes who were found to have participated in doping at the 2014 Sochi Games came down Friday, headlined by bobsledder Aleksandr Zubkov being stripped of the gold medals he won in two- and four-man events.

Holcomb, who died in May, will posthumously move up one spot from bronze to silver in each of those races, once the medals are formally reallocated.

“It’s going to be weird for his family and it’s going to be weird for us,” U.S. veteran push athlete Chris Fogt, who was part of Holcomb’s four-man team in Sochi, said after the IOC decision Friday. “I’d like to think that we would be all together when it happens. And when we get those medals, we’re not going to have him there.”

A half-dozen U.S. bobsled and skeleton athletes are going to benefit from the Russian medalist disqualifications.

Skeleton racer Matt Antoine and bobsledders Holcomb, Fogt, Steven Langton and Curt Tomasevicz all left Sochi with bronzes and will be getting silvers. Skeleton racer Katie Uhlaender will be getting her first medal, with her finish upgraded from fourth to bronze. And combined, they’ll be collecting a total of $45,000 in additional bonus money from the U.S. Olympic Committee, which rewards medal performances.

MORE: A look at the Russians stripped of Olympic medals from Sochi

Now comes a delicate matter, with Holcomb’s family likely having to surrender his bronzes and await the exchange for the silvers. Holcomb’s father and one of his sisters wore the bronze medals at his memorial service in May in Lake Placid, New York.

“It’s definitely a little bittersweet that Holcomb isn’t here to see this happening,” said Langton, who was with Holcomb for the two-man medal-winning ride in Sochi and was also in the four-man sled with Holcomb, Fogt and Tomasevicz. “He worked hard and he earned those medals. It would have been very nice if he had the chance to enjoy them.”

Zubkov has been at World Cup races this season as president of the Russian bobsled federation. Unless the ruling is overturned on appeal, he won’t be at the Pyeongchang Olympics this winter, or any other Olympics. The IOC says sanctions against him – and other athletes found to have doped – include lifetime banishment from the games.

The International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation provisionally suspended Russian skeleton athletes Aleksandr Tretiakov and Elena Nikitina from World Cup events – both won medals in Sochi that were stripped this week. It’s likely that a similar ban could be issued to the bobsledders involved in Friday’s IOC ruling, including Zubkov.

“It’s important to be able to move forward,” said USA Bobsled and Skeleton CEO Darrin Steele, also an executive with the IBSF. “No doubt about it.”

Pending the IBSF changing results as the IOC has asked, the two-man gold medal will now almost certainly go to Beat Hefti and Alex Baumann of Switzerland. The four-man gold medal would go to the Latvian sled driven by Oskars Melbardis and pushed by Arvis Vilkaste, Daumants Dreiskens and Janis Strenga.

Holcomb’s sleds would get the silver in both races. Russia would get the bronze in both, with driver Alexander Kasjanov – who had a pair of fourth-place showings in Sochi – set for the upgrade. Neither Kasjanov nor any member of his team has been sanctioned by the IOC in relation to the doping scandal.

Langton said he’s pleased that the process, which sliding athletes from countless countries have been monitoring in anticipation of the disqualifications, is finally nearing an end.

“I had faith that the people handling it would handle it appropriately,” Langton said.

Thomas Bach warns critics ahead of Russia decision