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(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Noelle Pikus-Pace, USA, Women's Skeleton, at the XXI Olympic Winter Games in Whistler, Thursday, February 18, 2010.
Racer Noelle Pikus-Pace plots skeleton comeback
Winter sports » Racer’s comeback starts in Calgary, while World Cup takes stage in Utah.
First Published Nov 13 2012 03:09 pm • Last Updated Mar 06 2013 11:33 pm

Noelle Pikus-Pace won’t be competing at the annual bobsled and skeleton World Cup event Friday and Saturday at the Utah Olympic Park.

But not because she’s, you know … not competing.

Photos
At a glance

World Cup bobsled and skeleton

At the Utah Olympic Park

Friday

9 a.m. » Women’s skeleton

1 p.m. » Two-man bobsled

5 p.m. » Women’s bobsled

Saturday

9 a.m. » Men’s skeleton

1 p.m. »  Four-man bobsled

Comeback trail

Follow Noelle Pikus-Pace as she aims to reach the 2014 Sochi Olympics in Russia, on her website, NoellePikusPace.com. Fans can track her progress, watch videos of her training and donate money to her endeavor.

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Nearly three years after retiring from one of the most harrowing sports in the world, the almost 30-year-old Orem native is making a surprise comeback in skeleton — with her eyes on the 2014 Sochi Olympics in Russia following the birth of two children and the agonizing miscarriage of a third.

"I feel like this is what we’re supposed to do," she said.

While defending world and Olympic champion bobsled pilot Steve Holcomb of Park City and other top athletes from around the world are racing near Kimball Junction, though, Pikus-Pace will be competing at a lower-level America’s Cup competition in Calgary in order to qualify for a return to the World Cup tour.

When she does, Pikus-Pace almost certainly will rejoin the list of top contenders for gold in Sochi, after finishing fourth at the Vancouver Olympics and retiring to raise her family in Eagle Mountain.

"When I retired, I was serious about retiring," she said. "I saw our future without skeleton, and I made plans for my future without skeleton." That included selling almost all of her equipment, except what she used in Vancouver, which she kept for nostalgia’s sake.

But her husband sensed she might not really be finished.

Janson Pace kept urging his wife to try the sport again, after their second child — son Traycen — was born in March 2011. Pikus-Pace resisted, even as friends, relatives and neighbors began to join in the nagging, pushing her to take just one more crack at speeding head-first and on her belly down an icy culvert, her chin just inches from the rock-hard track.

She was just 0.1 seconds away from a medal in Vancouver, after all.


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Finally, several months later, Pikus-Pace agreed to take a single run down the track at the UOP, just to "humor" her husband.

"If you don’t like it, great," he said. "We’ll be done."

Of course, she arrived at the finish line with a huge smile on her face.

"Oh, great," she said, jokingly.

Even then, though, she wasn’t committed to returning. Pikus-Pace was committed to her family. She had envisioned her future in her head, and being a wife and mother — not a world-class athlete, traveling the world — was what she saw. That feeling only intensified when she learned almost a year ago that she was pregnant with a third child.

"That was direction we were planning on going," she said.

But Pikus-Pace miscarried last April, 18 weeks along. The baby’s heart just stopped, she said.

Inexplicable.

Almost unbearable.

"That was really when we started reassessing what direction we wanted to take our lives," Pikus-Pace said. "Where we needed to be in life. … It just came down to prayer. That was the only thing that got us through that. It was really difficult."

"We just felt really at peace when we thought about going on for skeleton," she added.

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