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Pikus-Pace earns two medals in Intercontinental Cup season opener
WHISTLER, British Columbia (Dec. 2, 2012)-While the international bobsled and skeleton racing season is well underway, this weekend marked the start of the Intercontinental Cup tour. Two races were held on the 2010 Olympic track in Whistler on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, and Noelle Pikus-Pace (Orem, Utah) led the U.S. squad with gold and silver medal performances.
“There was a combination of great racing and great learning experiences here in Whistler,” said U.S. coach Brian McDonald. “All of our athletes raced hard and I'm proud of their efforts. Hearing the U.S. national anthem on the second day was music to our ears.”
Pikus-Pace was the expected leader by 0.16 seconds after her first run of 54.89 seconds in the first race. The former world champion was en route to capturing gold, but her sled veered to the left out of the start groove and hit the right wall before entering curve one.
“That really took its toll on my time,” Pikus-Pace said. “This track is difficult to anticipate. The ice changes not only from day to day but from hour to hour making it tricky to choose the right equipment to use.”
Pikus-Pace fell into second place with a combined time of 1:50.41. Eager to reclaim her lead, the 2010 Olympian dominated the second race with the fastest runs of the competition, 55.58 and 55.39, for a total time of 1:50.97 to claim gold.
“Noelle was the steely veteran here,” McDonald said. “When she hits her steers she is hard to compete with. She certainly did her part in helping us try to achieve a third women's sled in World Championships this season. A terrible groove here cost her the win in the first race, but she put the smack down on the field in the second race to prove that the path to Sochi goes through her.”
Katharina Heinz from Germany was able to sneak ahead of Pikus-Pace to take the lead by 0.07 seconds the first day. British athlete Rose McGrandle claimed bronze after clocking a total of 1:50.79.
German Sophia Griebel was the silver medal recipient on Saturday with a combined time of 1:51.45, followed 0.25 seconds by Canadian Micaela Widmer.
Whistler was Annie O’Shea’s (Port Jefferson Station, N.Y.) first international competition back since knee surgery this summer. She clocked a total time of 1:52.67 to finish 15th the first day, and 1:53.89 to move up one position into 14th on Saturday.
“Annie is keeping the big picture in mind here in Whistler as well as the remaining Intercontinental Cup schedule,” McDonald said. “She pushed through some knee issues and raced well. Our goal is to continually improve as the season progresses. Slowly but surely she will rise to the top. I have no doubts.”
Matt Antoine (Prairie du Chien, Wisc.) led the U.S. men’s skeleton team with a fifth place finish in the first race. Antoine stayed in Whistler following the World Cup event to gain points leading into the holiday break so that he can stay in the U.S. for an additional week of rehab. Antoine continues to build back strength and speed after surgery to repair a partial tear in his patella tendon four months ago.
Antoine clocked runs of 54.34 and 54.75 seconds for a total time of 1:49.09 to finish just 0.25 seconds from the medals.
“Matt was able to post a solid result after a very rough first run,” McDonald said. “He knows his bigger goal is World Championships, so we're satisfied with his performance here.”
German Alexander Gassner swept the men’s races with total times of 1:48.23 and 1:49.02. Dominic Parsons from Great Britain trailed Gassner by nearly half a second to claim silver the first day and slid a bronze medal performance in the second race with a combined time of 1:49.43. Canadian Dave Greszczyszyn nabbed bronze after clocking a two-run total of 1:48.84 in the first event, and his teammate Charles Wlodarczak secured silver for the host nation the second day with an aggregate time of 1:49.25.
Brad Stewart (Hastings, Minn.) put together two strong performances to finish 13th and ninth. Despite the respectable finishes on a course he competed on for the first time in his career, Stewart was dissatisfied with his results.
“I’m pretty disappointed in my runs,” Stewart said. “I struggled with consistency in my runs. I was feeling good after the last day of training but after seven days on ice, I think I was just mentally tired and not as sharp as I needed to be. While I don't regret not taking a day off, I certainly could have used one.”
Stewart posted runs of 54.90 and 55.99 seconds for a total time of 1:50.89 to finish 13th the first day. He threaded together two heats of 55.36 and 55.68 for a combined time of 1:51.04 to move into ninth place on Saturday.
“All in all I'm happy to be getting this tour underway,” Stewart said. “I've been getting anxious waiting at home while everyone else had gotten started on their tours. I think that anxiousness played a little into my sliding since I never got into a flow and just went through steers.”
Mike Dellemann (Oregon, Wisc.) is continuing to learn the ropes in only his third year sliding. Like Stewart, Dellemann learned the Whistler course in the few days leading up to the race. The emerging slider finished 18th the first day with a total time of 1:52.21, and clocked a two-run total of 1:53.04 to finish 17th the second day. Dellemann posted the fastest start times on Friday.
“The track is still very new to me and I was having some trouble over the week,” Dellemann said. “The field is very competitive with many experienced sliders. I want to come back another time, but I’m excited to compete in the U.S. next.”
Tom Santagato (Astoria, N.Y.) split the Whistler training and races with Antoine and had even less opportunity than Stewart and Dellemann to dial in the track. Santagato competed in Saturday’s event and clocked a first run of 57.53 seconds, putting him just outside the cutoff for the final run in 23rd.
“Seeing as though I had to split races, I had a really limited amount of training runs,” Santagato said. “Despite that, I felt like I made good progress during the week and was excited to race on Saturday. Unfortunately, I fell victim to the weather and wound up popping the groove on my first run. I executed really well after that but my race was pretty much over before I even got on the sled.”
Santagato will have an opportunity to make up for the blunder at the start in the second Intercontinental Cup event on the 2002 Olympic track in Park City, Utah from Dec. 7-8.
“I'm looking forward to getting home and racing on home ice,” said Stewart, who resides in Park City with his wife, Kimber Gabryszak, who also races on the national team. “It's been a few years since I've raced in an international competition at home, so I'm excited for a homecoming of sorts.”
Please contact Amanda Bird, USBSF Marketing & Communications Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 518-354-2250 with media inquiries.
Women’s skeleton race #1:
1. Katharina Heinz (GER) 1:50.34 (55.05, 55.29); 2. Noelle Pikus-Pace (USA) 1:50.41 (54.89, 55.52); 3. Rose McGrandle (GBR) 1:50.79 (55.03, 55.76);…15. Annie O’Shea (USA) 1:52.67 (56.14, 56.53);
Women’s skeleton race #2:
1. Noelle Pikus-Pace (USA) 1:50.97 (55.58, 55.39); 2. Sophia Griebel (GER) 1:51.45 (55.88, 55.57); 3. Micaela Widmer (CAN) 1:51.70 (55.81, 55.89)…14. Annie O’Shea (USA) 1:53.89 (56.60, 57.29);
Men’s skeleton race #1:
1. Alexander Gassner (GER) 1:48.23 (54.01, 54.22); 2. Dominic Parsons (GBR) 1:48.72 (54.26, 54.46); 3. Dave Greszczyszyn (CAN) 1:48.84 (54.21, 54.63);…5. Matt Antoine (USA) 1:49.09 (54.34, 54.75);…13. Brad Stewart (USA) 1:50.89 (54.90, 55.99);…18. Mike Dellemann (USA) 1:52.21 (55.34, 56.87);
Men’s skeleton race #2:
1. Alexander Gassner (GER) 1:49.02 (54.44, 54.58); 2. Charles Wlodarczak (CAN) 1:49.25 (54.55, 54.70); 3. Dominic Parsons (GBR) 1:49.43 (54.60, 54.83);…9. Brad Stewart (USA) 1:51.04 (55.36, 55.68);…17. Mike Dellemann (USA) 1:53.04 (56.72, 56.32);…23. Tom Santagato (USA) (57.53, DNS);
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The United States Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, based in Lake Placid, N.Y., is the national governing body for the sports of bobsled and skeleton in the United States. The USBSF would like to thank its sponsors, suppliers and contributors for their support: BMW of North America, Under Armour, United States National Guard, Kampgrounds of America, Vivat!, Global Forwarding, KBC Helmets, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Autism Speaks, Park City Lodging, EDAS/Ripxx, UberSense, Tesa Tape and Ferris Mfg. Corp. For more information, please visit the USBSF website at http://bobsled.teamusa.org.