What a way to go into Sochi. Finishing the World Cup with a win is definitely a confidence booster heading into the Olympics. —Noelle Pikus-Pace
KOENIGSSEE, Germany — An emotional week and snow-altered competition forced Orem’s Noelle Pikus-Pace to temper her expectations in the final skeleton World Cup of the season.
As it turned out, that was unnecessary.
“I woke up this morning and saw the snow and thought, ‘Well, it’s what we do. It’s part of the sport,’” she said after claming the gold. The win earned her second-place honors on the circuit standings, just behind Great Britain’s Elizabeth Yarnold.
“You have to adapt," Pikus-Pace said. "I was fortunate to draw No. 2 as well, but I also think today’s finish is a big result of the support I have here.”
Pikus-Pace’s maternal grandfather passed away earlier this week, and she said the unexpected surprise of having her brother and sponsors from Mountain Crane was a much-needed lift.
“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’m grateful to have finished with a win.”
The snow forced officials to shorten the race to one heat, and Pikus-Pace won with a time of 52.92 seconds. Austrian Janine Flock was second (53.36), while British Olympic medalist Shelley Rudman won bronze (53.42). The jury decided to cancel the race between heats because of steady snowfall.
Pikus-Pace will ride the win into the 2014 Winter Olympics, where a showdown between her and Yarnold promises to be a thriller. In eight races, Yarnold has won gold in four and Pikus-Pace has won gold in four.
“What a way to go into Sochi,” Pikus-Pace said. “Finishing the World Cup with a win is definitely a confidence booster heading into the Olympics.”
Yarnold medaled in every World Cup except this final one, where she finished ninth. Yarnold's 1,672 World Cup points earned her the title, while Pikus-Pace finished second with 1,520 points.
It’s interesting to note that Pikus-Pace had a gold medal taken from her in the first World Cup of the season at Calgary because she had a piece of tape on her handle that officials said violated the rules.
Pikus-Pace’s teammate, Katie Uhlaender, of Colorado, finished 11th in the race and 12th in the overall World Cup standings.