Americans in contention in skeleton

February, 18, 2010

WHISTLER, British Columbia -- After the first three sliding events led to serious disappointment for the Americans in men's luge, women's luge and men's doubles, the first day of women's skeleton finished with a split decision.

Noelle Pikus-Pace, the former No. 1 in the world, was in fifth place with a two-heat combined time of 1:48.51 seconds, and Katie Uhlaender was ninth, a full second behind Amy Williams of Great Britain, who led the first day with two-run time of 1:47.96. Williams was the only slider to post a time under 54 seconds, which she did on her first run time of 53.83 seconds.

Like her Team USA brethren, Uhlaender struggled at the start and found it nearly impossible to make up the time. She was clearly upset about her performance.

"I'm disappointed, that's for sure," she said. "Last year at the World Cup, I was a few hundredths out of medaling, now, what, three-tenths? I had a lot of trouble with the first curve. I went in late, and it cost me a lot of time and a lot of speed. It doesn't show up on the first split, but it does on the second, so hopefully tomorrow, come out, have fun and see what happens."

Meanwhile, Pikus-Pace seems to be enjoying every moment, treating the Olympics like a farewell victory tour. She had a cheering horde wearing the custom made ski hats she designed.

Pikus-Pace has already said she is retiring to pursue other interests and have another child after the Games, meaning Friday's medal event final will be the last two runs of her career. On the bottom of her sled, she wrote "100s of loved ones, 10 years, 4 runs, 1 sled, 1 dream." She is currently sixteen-hundredths from a bronze medal, a spot currently held by Kerstin Szymkowiak of Germany.

The gold medal will be awarded to the slider with the lowest combined time over the four heats.

"I just blocked it out. I just turned it off, and I couldn't hear anyone the whole way down. I mean, I know they were screaming, I could hear the echoing in my helmet, but until I crossed the finish line and heard the roar of people in the stands, I really didn't pay any attention to it," she said. "This is so much bigger than a world championship race. The runs are obviously the same, the track will stay the same. But the energy of the Olympic games is incredible, and it's helping me."

Howard Bryant | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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