World Cup Skeleton: Americans fall short in openers

Utah Olympic ParkThe following is an excerpt from an article originally published at sltrib.com:

Zach Lund’s hamstring held up a lot better than the weather. Lund finished fifth in the first World Cup skeleton race of the season at the Utah Olympic Park on Thursday, despite the lingering leg injury that has been limiting his training for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. “Less than ideal, but a decent result,” the Salt Lake City native called it — and far better than the season debut for which Orem’s Noelle Pikus-Pace had to settle on the women’s side.

An inexplicably slow first run left Pikus-Pace in 13th place in the women’s race, and she barely had finished her second run amid an afternoon blizzard — “I was trying to dodge snowballs on the way down,” she said — before officials canceled the race because of visibility problems and the snow accumulating on the track. The squall stopped not long after the decision, but results from the first run only stood as the final standings.

“It’s kind of disappointing,” Pikus-Pace said, “but we have to know it comes with the territory.”

Germany’s Anja Huber won the women’s race, with three Canadians in the top five. Latvia’s Martins Dukurs won the men’s race by a massive margin of 0.52 seconds ahead of Germany’s Sandro Stielicke, with Lund the top American in much milder morning conditions.

“My hamstring held up well today, actually, which is a good sign,” he said. “I needed that. Mentally, it’s been hard. I’ve been very cautious, just trying to do everything I can to get ready for the World Cup season.”

Both Lund and Pikus-Pace are former World Cup champions trying to finally reach the Olympics.

Lund qualified for the 2006 Turin Games, but was sent home after testing positive for a banned drug that was in his hair-restoration formula. Pikus-Pace missed out after suffering a broken leg when she was hit by a runaway bobsled.

And though she has raced well recently in training and trials on the new sled her husband built, Pikus-Pace found more rotten luck this week — spending time in the hospital with a gallstone attack that sapped her strength. She hopes to find better form when the World Cup season stops next weekend in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Click here for the complete article.

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