WHISTLER, British Columbia -- After a dark beginning, American Zach Lund found a little daylight in his quest for a medal in the men's skeleton competition.
Lund jumped two spots to finish eighth with the final two heats Friday to decide the gold medal. The slider with lowest combined total of the four runs will be the champion.
The leaders controlled both heats, in order, but two sliders, Martins Dukurs of Latvia and Canada's Jon Montgomery, have dusted the field; the gap between second and third is more than half a second.
Alexander Tretyakov of Russia is third.
"It was a big improvement over the first run. I was lucky to be as close as I was after the first run, as bad as it was," Lund said. "I was a tourist on my sled. I was trying to relax as much as I could, and I went too far. I relaxed too much, and the track is fast tonight, the fastest it's ever been."
Before Lund's second run of 52.85 seconds, it had been a disappointing night for the Americans. Lund was best, in just 10th place after the first run, while Eric Bernotas was 14th, John Daly 21st.
Outside of Lund, the second didn't improve much for either. With two heats left, Bernotas is still 14th, while Daly improved three spots to 18th.
The first heat continued an odd, frustrating trip for the Americans. In his final two practice heats, Lund finished third and fourth. During his run, however, he nearly touched the roof on the high side wall coming out of a curve and could not regain control of his sled before losing considerable time. Lund is 0.98 seconds behind Dukurs but is only 0.12 of a second behind Tretyakov -- and a possible bronze.
If the Americans, both men and women, suffered from a familiar pattern, it was struggling with their starts.
"It's fast tonight and adjustments need to be made," Bernotas said. "My start wasn't with me tonight, but my mind was going into the race, and I plan on getting ready the same way tomorrow."
Entering the Olympics, Lund said he feared his starts could cost him. During his final two practice heats, Lund ranked 13th and 9th out of the gates, yet was able to make up the considerable time on the course. His average speed of 87.8 miles per hour was eighth overall.
But on Thursday, he timed out career bests on his starts, which gives him hope.
"If I can move up two spots after every run, I'm there," Lund said. "So why not?"