No American woman had reached a World Cup skeleton medals podium in nearly three years, a drought that finally ended in the snowy mountains of France on Saturday.
For good measure, it ended twice.
Annie O'Shea took the silver medal and Katie Uhlaender won the bronze at La Plagne on Saturday, a breakthrough finish for an American program that's trying to build momentum for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Uhlaender is a former two-time World Cup overall champion, but O'Shea is a second-year member of the tour who had never before finished better than seventh.
"This is pretty much amazing," said O'Shea, a native of Port Jefferson Station, N.Y. "I'm really excited, I don't even know what to say right now. I can't believe this."
Canada's Mellisa Hollingsworth won the race, putting down the fastest time in each of the two runs and finishing in a combined 2 minutes, 6.09 seconds. O'Shea was 0.37 seconds back, Uhlaender another 0.18 seconds off the Canadian's pace -- but completed a rare 1-2-3 sweep for North Americans on a European track.
O'Shea went to the track not knowing what to expect. Many competitors had never seen the La Plagne course before, so the learning curve was steep.
"I never thought I would excel at a technical track like this, but I think it's beneficial that I'm here for the first time," O'Shea said. "I just let it happen. I didn't over think anything and just let the sled go. Needless to say, this is now my favorite track on circuit."
Uhlaender was the last American woman to medal in a World Cup race, doing so on Feb. 12, 2009. She's been steadily bothered by knee and hip injuries since, had more than a half-dozen surgeries and missed the opening race on this season's circuit while competing in a weightlifting competition with hopes of qualifying for the 2012 London Games in that sport.
A bronze in her season debut gave the two-time Olympian a clear boost of confidence.
"I feel like I trained so hard, and weightlifting was good cross training for sliding," Uhlaender said. "My goal is to always be in the top three. I feel like I've finally overcome the obstacles that have blocked me over the last few seasons, and I'm excited to get even stronger throughout the year."
Uhlaender was fifth after the first run before rallying for a medal spot.
"I am so proud to see how we did as a team," Uhlaender said. "I had so much support from everyone and it finally feels like we're all working together. I think we're only going to get better."
Also for the U.S., Kimber Gabryszak of Park City, Utah, finished 16th.