Olympic women win medals in skeleton event

Published On: Feb 14 2014 07:37:57 AM HST
Noelle Pikus-Pace, skeleton qualifiers, Sochi Olympics

Murad Sezer/Reuters

American Noelle Pikus-Pace won Olympic silver in the women's skeleton event in Sochi on Friday.

The 31-year-old Utah native finished just behind Great Britain's Elizabeth Yarnold, who beat her by nearly a full second for gold. Coming in third for bronze was Russian Elena Nikitina.

Katie Uhlaender, a 29-year-old Vail, Colo., native, finished in fourth place, just four one-hundredths of a second away from winning bronze.

The event features competitors riding a small sled down a frozen track while lying face down. Riders experience forces up to 5 g and reach speeds of more than 80 miles per hour. The sport earned its name from the bony appearance of the sled.

Pikus-Pace and Uhlaender went into Friday in second and fourth place after the first two heats on Thursday.

Pikus-Pace arrived at the games on a roll, winning six medals, including four golds, to finish the 2013-14 World Cup season ranked second overall behind Great Britain's Lizzy Yarnold.

Pikus-Pace was one of the favorites to medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, but her hopes were dashed by a freak accident at a 2005 competition in Canada.

A four-man bobsled team failed to brake at the end of a run and struck Pikus-Pace and a teammate, leaving her with a broken leg. She missed the Olympics and the first half of the 2005-06 season, but came back better than ever, claiming the 2007 world championship and finishing second overall in the 2006-07 World Cup standings behind teammate Katie Uhlaender.

When she reached her first Olympics, the 2010 Vancouver Games, she finished just off the podium in fourth place.

She initially retired after the 2010 Olympics, but announced her comeback in 2012 with the intention of competing in Sochi. Since coming back, she's helped a U.S. mixed team win gold at the 2013 world championships and then went on to place second in the women's event.

Uhlaender, the 2012 world champion struggled, in the 2013-14 World Cup season, failing to reach the podium and finishing the season 16th in the standings.

Sochi is Uhlaender's third Winter Olympics after finishing sixth in 2006 and 11th in 2010.

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