Noelle Pikus-Pace won a silver medal at a World Cup skeleton race in Germany on Saturday, while reigning Olympic champion bobsledder Steven Holcomb crashed in the four-man race and finished 20th.
It was the second crash of the week for Holcomb, a Park City native who also crashed in training in Winterberg after winning the first seven races of the World Cup season — all in North America.
“It’s all about character now,” U.S. coach Brian Shimer said, according to the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation. “Life unfortunately gives you ups and downs, and the higher you go, the steeper you fall. We’ve all been through it, and we were prepared for the low. These guys are determined, probably the most motivated they’ve ever been, and whatever happens we keep looking ahead with the big picture in mind.”
Holcomb and his crew aboard the new “Night Train 2” — including Alpine’s Chris Fogt — have another four-man race on Sunday, but have been straining to negotiate the Winterberg course all week.
They crashed on their second run Saturday in the same place they crashed in training, curve 9, after sitting in medal position behind eventual winner Maximillian Arndt of Germany.
Fellow American Nick Cunningham crashed the USA-2 sled in the same place during training, and Cory Butner crashed there on his first run Saturday in USA-3 and did not qualify for a second run.
“Don’t mistake my crash as weakness,” Holcomb wrote on his Facebook page after his training crash. “On the contrary, it shows the commitment, courage, and determination my team has to win. In order to get better and go faster than you ever have before, you must step outside your comfort zone, try things you’ve never tried, do things you’ve never done, and see just how far you can push your limits.”
The Winterberg course always has been difficult for Holcomb, who said it’s because it’s a “low-pressure” track that forces him to steer more by sight than “feel,” which is how he learned to drive while suffering from a degenerative vision disorder years ago.
He since has had his vision repaired, and remains a favorite to reach the medals at the upcoming 2014 Sochi Olympics in Russia. He won the first four two-man races of the season in Calgary, Park City and Lake Placid — he was seventh in the two-man race at Winterberg on Friday — and the first three four-man races.
Pikus-Pace also is a strong contender to finally win an Olympic medal in Sochi, and was happy to reach the podium in the first race of the second half of the season at the site of her first World Cup victory nearly a decade ago.
“This track is where it all began for me,” the Orem native and Eagle Mountain resident said. “A little switch flipped and I knew I had the potential to be the best in the world. This was where I realized I could be a top competitor and that I was equal to other athletes. I didn’t need to look up to anyone else anymore and it was an even playing field.”
Pikus-Pace clocked a two-run combined time of 1 minute, 58.10 seconds to finish 0.57 seconds behind Great Britain’s Elizabeth Yarnold. The two had been tied after the first run, and have combined to win all five women’s skeleton races so far this season.
Michael C. Lewis
Women’s ski jumping
In Chaikovsky, Russia, Irina Avvakumova of Russia ended Sara Takanashi’s unbeaten streak this season by earning her first women’s ski jump World Cup victory Saturday on home soil.
Avvakumova had jumps of 100 and 101.5 meters for a total of 249.2 points to beat Carina Vogt of Germany by 4.3 points.
Takanashi, the 17-year-old defending overall champion from Japan, had won all four previous World Cup events this season but had to settle for third with 243.1 points — just 0.1 point ahead of fourth-place Katharina Althaus of Germany.
Takanashi beat Vogt for the victory on Friday on the same hill and still holds a big lead in the overall standings.
World Cup moguls
In Calgary, Alberta, world champion Mikael Kingsbury won a World Cup moguls competition at Canada Olympic Park and Canadian teammate Justine Dufour-Lapointe topped the women’s field.
Kingsbury finished with 86.50 points. Olympic champion Alex Bilodeau of Canada was second at 84.76, and American Patrick Deneen finished third at 78.16.
Kingsbury, from Deux-Montagnes, Quebec, has won the Calgary stop on the World Cup four straight years.
Dufour-Lapointe finished at 78. 53. Olympic champion Hannah Kearney of Hanover, N.H., was second in 77.63 the women’s event, and Dufour-Lapointe’s sister Chloe was third at 74.83. A third Dufour-Lapointe sister, Maxime, was fifth.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.