Noelle Pikus-Pace: Orem native remains top contender in skeleton
In case there's any doubt whether Noelle Pikus-Pace is excited to finally be heading to the Vancouver Olympics, just check out her blog at the U.S. Bobsled & Skeleton Federation.
"Wahooooooooo!" she wrote.
Much like fellow Utahn Zach Lund, the 27-year-old Orem native has taken a long road to her first Olympics.
She was a skeleton gold-medal favorite heading into the 2006 Turin Games four years ago, until a runaway bobsled shattered her right leg. Then, after recovering enough to finish second in the World Cup standings the following season, she took a year off to have a baby, and strained to reclaim her competitive fire against her maternal instincts.
"I just felt like I wasn't doing my job as a mom," she said, "so that was tearing me away from what I needed to be doing as a competitor. ... I just felt like my heart was not in the sport, at all. My mind and my heart were at home, and at every race and in training I was like, 'Why am I here? I just want to be home with my daughter.'"
She's over that now, though.
Her family has always helped her and her husband care for little Lacee, who just turned 2 years old.
But Pikus-Pace is better able to accept it now, and is allowing herself to be more "selfish" in order to pursue her Olympic dreams before hanging up her sled and retiring from an illustrious career that included an overall World Cup championship. Though she's perhaps not as strong a medal contender as she would have been four years ago, she still ranks sixth in the world and has a chance to reach the podium.
"I'm just going to go out and give it my best," she said, "and I know that on any given day, my best could beat the rest of the world, and I can be on top."
Oh, and speaking of that sled? Her husband, Janson Pace, designed it from scratch, and Pikus-Pace joked with reporters earlier this season about how she discovered her daughter coloring on it.
"My husband made the sled, Lacee decorates it and I slide on it," she said. "So it's a family affair."