12/12 17:00 CST Antoine among US sliders to watch in Lake Placid
Antoine among US sliders to watch in Lake Placid
AP Sports Writer
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (AP) --- Matt Antoine watched skeleton racing for the first
time during broadcasts of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, where Americans
swept the gold medals in the headfirst sliding discipline.
He wanted to be part of the team. Problem was, the team didn't want him.
A tryout the next winter in Lake Placid didn't go so well, with coaches
thanking him for his interest and sending him home. Undeterred, he came back a
year later, found a way to stick around and his stock has steadily risen. This
weekend in Lake Placid, Antoine should be among the U.S. medal contenders when
the World Cup circuit hits the track at frigid Mount Van Hoevenberg.
"I got told I wasn't good enough at that first tryout," Antoine said. "I didn't
believe it. We joke about it now. ... I got that taste of it for a week, I knew
it was something that I loved and I didn't believe that I didn't have it."
Interestingly, the original scouting report indicated Antoine lacked natural
talent. These days, some around the U.S. team consider him loaded with pure
driving talent, even comparable to women's gold-medal favorite Noelle
He's tied for third in the World Cup standings so far, and could be part of
another big medal haul this weekend. The U.S. bobsled and skeleton teams are
coming off a 10-medal World Cup weekend in Park City, Utah. Another weekend on
"home" ice should give the Americans even more momentum ahead of the Sochi
The weekend schedule opens Friday with 2-man bobsled, women's skeleton and
men's skeleton. On Saturday, it's another 2-man bobsled race followed by
women's bobsled. On Sunday, women's skeleton returns to the track, followed by
4-man bobsled to wrap up the hectic seven-event schedule that closes the North
American portion of the World Cup season.
Here's five more things to watch this weekend at Lake Placid:
WILLIAMS WATCH: Lauryn Williams' Olympic watch, winter version, is starting to
get real. Williams will be racing with top pilot Elana Meyers in USA-1 for
Saturday's women's bobsled race. The former University of Miami and U.S.
Olympic sprinting star helped the Americans win a silver medal in her World Cup
debut last weekend. Another strong push this weekend would figure to squarely
put her in the mix for the Sochi Games. "I'm really excited about this
opportunity," Williams said. "Elana is counting on me and I am going to do my
best. I know this is a big responsibility for a rookie."
UNBEATEN HOLCOMB: USA-1 men's pilot Steven Holcomb is 4-for-4 so far this
season, winning two 2-man and 4-man races at the opening World Cup stops. He
could open more of a lead in the World Cup standings this weekend and that's
significant, since the start order to begin the Olympic competition will hinge
on the season's overall points chase. More wins now, a better start position
and therefore better medal chances in Sochi.
FAREWELL, NOELLE: This weekend marks the final time top U.S. women's skeleton
pilot Noelle Pikus-Pace will race against an international field in the United
States, since she's retiring after the season. She's still steaming over her
disqualification in the season-opening race in Calgary, and two good showings
in Lake Placid could close most of the gap that she's facing in the World Cup
WEATHER ISSUES: It's going to be frigid this weekend in Lake Placid --- not
surprising --- so look for very hard, fast ice. And on a tough-to-drive track
like the one at Mount Van Hoevenberg, don't be surprised if a couple of
bobsleds topple on race day.
INTERNATIONAL FLAVOR: Germany has long been the world's sliding power, but so
far this season it's been the U.S. and Canada looking like they'll be the ones
to catch in bobsled and skeleton. Considering this is a home track for the
Americans, and one the Canadians know about as well as the ones in their own
country, look for the usual suspects like Holcomb, Meyers and Canadian star
Kaillie Humphries to find their way to the medal podium this weekend.