Noelle Pikus-Pace finally got her Olympic medal while Britain’s Lizzy Yarnold ran away and hid from the field.
Event: Women’s, runs 3 and 4
Medalists: Lizzy Yarnold (Britain), Noelle Pikus-Pace (USA), Elena Nikitina (Russia)
SportsMyriad projections: Noelle Pikus-Pace (USA), Lizzy Yarnold (Britain), Shelley Rudman (Britain)
How U.S. fared: The perseverance of Pikus-Pace paid off with silver. The 2005 World Cup champion missed the 2006 Olympics after a runaway bobsled shattered her leg in October 2005. She came back to win the 2007 world title but was fourth in the 2010 Games. She retired but decided to come back for another run. She reached the podium in the last four races of the 2012-13 World Cup season and co-dominated the 2013-14 season with Britain’s Lizzy Yarnold — four wins, two seconds, a third place and a controversial DQ.
She wasn’t able to mount much of a challenge to Yarnold this time, giving up at least 0.19 seconds in each of the four runs. But she kept a comfortable lead over the rest of the field.
Katie Uhlaender also has been through a lot in her career. After her Olympic debut — sixth in 2006 — she won the next two World Cup titles. But injuries knocked her out of form, and she wasn’t a factor in 2010. She came back to win the World Championship in 2012. Her World Cup results this season were marginal, but she was gearing up for a run here.
And she made one. She was a close fourth after the first day, slipped back to fifth after the third heat, then charged in the last heat … missing a medal by 0.04 seconds.
What happened: Lizzy Yarnold left no suspense. She set a track record in the first heat and broke it in the third. She had the fastest time in each heat and cruised to victory.
The Russian sliders took full advantage of their home track despite some inconsistency. Elena Nikitina set a start record in the first heat and was only 0.05 behind Yarnold.
In the final heat, Uhlaender passed Russia’s Olga Potylitsina, only to see Nikitina squeeze out just enough speed to bump her from the podium.
The Canadian challengers didn’t figure out the track until the last heat, when they tied for second. By then, it was too late to topple Yarnold, the Americans and the Russians.