Tretiakov wins Russia's 1st skeleton gold

The Sports NetworkFebruary 15, 2014 

Rzhanaya Polyana, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Alexander Tretiakov completed a wire-to-wire win in the men's skeleton competition Saturday for Russia's first Olympic gold medal in the sport.

The United States won its second skeleton medal in two days, Matthew Antoine's bronze, but also suffered heartbreak when John Daly slipped out of the track at the start to ruin his chance at a medal.

Tretiakov had .56-second lead over favorite Martins Dukurs of Latvia after two runs Friday and extended it to .81 seconds after the last two runs Saturday.

Dukurs, the youngest of two brothers in competition, settled for his second straight Olympic silver medal. Tomass Dukurs ended fourth, .32 seconds out of a medal.

Antoine's bronze was the first U.S. Olympic medal in men's skeleton since Jim Shea Jr.'s gold in 2002, when the sport made its return to the Winter Games at Salt Lake City after an absence of 54 years.

Noelle Pikus-Pace earned silver for the U.S. in the women's competition on Friday.

"It's going to take some time to process it for sure, but it's the greatest moment of my life without a doubt," said Antoine. "I've been preparing for this moment, but it's still just unreal right now."

Sliders in skeleton keep one runner of their sled in a groove cut into the track as they charge down the ice at the start of their runs.

Daly was in fourth place by just .04 seconds after being leapfrogged by his teammate in the third run, but he couldn't keep the right runner of his sled in the track to start his fourth run.

He lost too much time and was left with nearly a minute to think about the mistake as he navigated the rest of the Sanki Sliding Center track.

Daly, 28, slipped all the way to 15th place. He finished 17th four years ago at the Vancouver Olympics.

"I went for it," he said, "and I don't regret going for it"

Daly said he wished he had one more chance.

"The sole blame was on myself; there's no one else to blame here but me," he said. "I know I left it all there, but I really do wish for the first time in my career that I had a second chance, and I didn't have to wait four more years."

Tretiakov started with a track-record time of 55.95 seconds on Friday and held his lead over Martins Dukurs all the way through. He finished with an overall time of 3 minutes, 44.29 seconds.

The younger Dukurs was the only slider with a chance to catch him and managed to trim .02 seconds off the Russian's lead after the third run. But Tretiakov beat the Latvian by .27 seconds on the final run to win the gold going away.

Tretiakov improved on his bronze medal from 2010, when he finished behind Canada's Jon Montgomery and Martins Dukurs.

Montgomery was one of the home stars of the Vancouver Olympics, but did not qualify for Sochi and told The Canadian Press he was "99 percent" sure he was going to retire.

Canada's top finisher Saturday was John Fairbairn in seventh place. Teammate Eric Neilson ended 13th

Only 20 of the 27 riders qualified for the fourth run. American Kyle Tress missed it by one spot.

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