Pikus-Pace continues medal streak with silver in Igls

IGLS, Austria (Jan. 18, 2013)-Women’s skeleton competitor Noelle Pikus-Pace (Orem, Utah) followed up her win last week with a silver medal performance in Igls, Austria this morning. The last time Pikus-Pace medaled in Igls was six years ago in the January 2007 World Cup, where she also finished second.

“It’s still just as exciting as my first medal,” Pikus-Pace said. “The thrill never wears off, and it might be even more exciting for me now. I know that if I give my best I will be happy with the result no matter what, so I’m able to focus on putting together the puzzle of the track instead of my result.”

Pikus-Pace burst off the block in 5.58 seconds to start her bid for the medals in the first heat. She crossed the finish line just 0.05 seconds from the lead with a run of 55.32 seconds. As the women’s bobsledders gathered at the start for their upcoming World Cup race, the U.S. team stood trackside to cheer Pikus-Pace off the block in the final heat. She distanced herself from all but one competitor and posted a combined time of 1:50.73 to earn silver.

“I really feel like this season has been more successful than when I was overall champion or world champion,” Pikus-Pace said. “It feels like everything is coming together, and my family has so much support. There really is a team behind me, and it makes the experience very fulfilling.”

The Russians are building up steam leading into the Olympic dress rehearsal on their home track in Sochi, Russia next month. Elena Nikitina claimed her first career World Cup victory in 1:50.46, and her teammate Maria Orlova clocked a two-run total of 1:51.06 for third.

With three medals won so far this season, Katie Uhlaender (Breckenridge, Colo.) was hoping to bounce back from a disappointing ninth place finish last week. Uhlaender struggled with the early morning fog and light snow, and finished 10th with a combined time of 1:51.48. The reigning World Champion threaded together clean and consistent runs of 55.72 and 55.76 seconds, but she was unable to find any pockets of speed down the course for medal position.

“I guess I’m just not a good snow racer yet,” Uhlaender said. “I’m usually aggressive with my runner choice and I took a bit of a risk with the conditions. It might be why I didn’t have the result I wanted, but I’m kind of at a loss. I went through this same cycle last year, and it seemed to work out in the end.”

Uhlaender missed the podium in the five World Cup races leading up to the 2012 World Championships, which she won in dominant style to cap the season. While she was disappointed with today’s result, Uhlaender is prepared to defend her title in St. Moritz alongside Pikus-Pace.

“I’m happy for Noelle,” Uhlaender said. “I thought we would be on the podium together consistently, but I’m happy that at least one of us was in the medals today.”

The last time St. Moritz hosted world championships in 2007, Pikus-Pace and Uhlaender earned gold and bronze medals, respectively. The women have a week off before competing from Jan. 31-Feb 1.

“I love St. Moritz,” Pikus-Pace said. “It suits my driving better than any other track, so I’m excited to compete there again.”

Competition continues in Igls with the women’s bobsled event at 12 p.m. local time. Check your local listings for coverage on Universal Sports, or visit http://www.universalsports.com for highlight videos.

1. Elana Nikitina (RUS) 1:50.46 (55.27, 55.19); 2. Noelle Pikus-Pace (USA) 1:50.73 (55.32, 55.41); 3. Maria Orlova (RUS) 1:51.06 (55.48, 55.58);…10. Katie Uhlaender (USA) 1:51.48 (55.72, 55.76);

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