Yarnold takes gold, Pikus-Pace nabs silver in women's skeleton
Rzhanaya Polyana, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Great Britain's Elizabeth Yarnold claimed gold in the women's skeleton at the Sochi Olympics on Friday, while American Noelle Pikus-Pace took home silver.
It was a dominating performance at the Sanki Sliding Center by Yarnold, who set two track records during the Games and won all four heats in the event. That earned the 25-year-old her first Olympic medal with a total time 3 minutes, 52.89 seconds.
The 31-year-old Pikus-Pace also won her first Olympic medal after finishing fourth at the 2010 Games in Vancouver. She posted a total time of 3:53.86, 0.97 seconds back of Yarnold.
Katie Uhlaender was hoping to join her fellow American on the medal podium and finished with a total time of 3:54.34. However, that was 0.04 ticks behind Russian Elena Nikitina for the bronze.
Pikus-Pace, the silver medalist at the 2013 World Championships, was the second-to-last racer and tweeted a picture shortly before her final run of a piece of paper that read "This is it. Don't get scared now."
She then came out and finished with a time of 58.28 seconds to secure at least the silver medal and celebrated by jumping into the crowd to embrace her family.
It was a long-time coming for Pikus-Pace, who retired following the 2010 Games before making a comeback to participate in Sochi.
Any thoughts of gold were dashed when Yarnold clocked in at 58.09 in her fourth run, again getting the better of her American opponent.
Yarnold won the 2013-14 Skeleton World Cup over Pikus-Pace, a mother of two who again plans to retire and will do so with a medal.
Yarnold had the best time (1:56.89) following the first two runs on Thursday, including an opening-heat time of 58.43 seconds that set a track record. She bested that mark in her first run on Friday, coming in at 57.91 seconds. That was .22 seconds faster than any other slider in the third heat and padded her lead over Pikus-Pace to .78 seconds.
Pikus-Pace had the third-fastest time in the third heat at 58.25 seconds, .12 ticks behind Russia's Olga Potylitsina. Uhlaender had a time of 58.41 seconds to fall 1.19 seconds off Yarnold's leading time.
Uhlaender's fourth-run time was 58.35 seconds, the sixth-fastest in the heat. And while Nikitina's last time of 58.53 was only the 12th-fastest, it was enough to just edge past the American, who was sixth at the 2006 Games and 11th four years ago in Vancouver.