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Noelle Pikus-Pace from the United States jumps on her skeleton during her first run in the women's Skeleton World Cup race in Innsbruck, Austria, Friday, Jan. 17. 2014. (AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson)
Noelle Pikus-Pace wins final WC skeleton race
Winter sports » Utahns emerges as gold medal favorite in Sochi
First Published Jan 24 2014 09:52 am • Last Updated Feb 14 2014 12:30 pm

Noelle Pikus-Pace won the final World Cup skeleton race of the season in Germany on Friday, giving her four wins in eight races and cementing her as a gold-medal favorite for the upcoming Sochi Olympics in Russia.

"What a way to go into Sochi," she said. "Finishing the final World Cup with a win is definitely a confidence booster heading into the Olympics."

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The Orem native and Eagle Mountain resident figures to battle for gold in Sochi with Great Britain’s Elizabeth Yarnold, who finished ninth Friday after winning the four races this season that Pikus-Pace did not.

Yarnold won the overall World Cup title, with Pikus-Pace second.

Each slider missed the podium only once all season, and Pikus-Pace would have won the title had she not been controversially disqualified after winning the season-opener in Calgary, because of an improper piece of tape on the handle of her sled.

The race in Konigssee was shortened to one run because of steady snow, and Pikus-Pace was declared the winner after racing through one run in 52.92 seconds. Austria’s Janine Flock was second in 53.36, followed by Great Britain’s Shelley Rudman, the 2010 Olympic silver medalist, in 53.42.

Rudman finished third in the overall rankings, just ahead of Flock.

Pikus-Pace’s brother and some sponsors from Utah-based Mountain Crane Service unexpectedly surprised her at the finish, which Pikus-Pace appreciated after learning this week that her gravely ill grandfather had died.

"I struggled a lot this week," she said. "I didn’t take as many runs as I planned because I was having a difficult time focusing. It’s been very hard not being home right now. I was just hoping for a top six finish here, and I am grateful to have finished with the win."

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