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Skeleton bronze slips away from USA's Pikus-Pace

Noelle Pikus-Pace of the United States completes her final run in the women's skeleton. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / MCT)
Noelle Pikus-Pace of the United States completes her final run in the women's skeleton. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / MCT) MCT

WHISTLER, British Columbia — For a moment it looked like the final skeleton run of Noelle Pikus-Pace's career might end magically.

She sat in third place with only one slider to go and a bronze medal seemed like a fitting reward considering all she'd sacrificed the last four years. She recovered from a broken leg, had a daughter and was forced to leave her at home while she competed in Europe.

But a medal wasn't meant to be. With billionaire Richard Branson cheering her on, Amy Williams of Great Britain put down a solid run to win her country's first individual gold medal at the Winter Games in 30 years.

Pikus-Pace settled for fourth, a tenth of a second off the podium. Germans Kerstin Szymkowiak and Anja Huber were second and third respectively, winning their country's first two medals in skeleton.

Pikus-Pace was clearly relaxed before her fourth and final run, even though she was in fifth place. She was taking pictures and listening to "Fly on the Butter" by the Judds.

While a poor start cost her time on her final run, she was jubilant in the finish area. She'd hoped to compete in the 2006 Games and then retire, but she was kept out of the games when her leg was broken in '05 by an out of control bobsled.

"This was so worth the two-year wait," Pikus-Pace said. "The anticipation of it was like a kid waiting for Disneyland or Christmas."

Her 2-year-old daughter, Lacee, was in the stands blowing her kisses between heats.She took pride in the fact that her last run was her fastest of the season.

"I got done with that run and I knew that was it," Pikus-Pace said. "I just threw my hands up in the air and said, 'What an incredible ride it's been.' This has been amazing. It's been perfect. I couldn't have pictured it any other way."

Her teammate, Katie Uhlaender, finished 11th and bashed the Canadians and her sports governing body, the International Bobsled and Skelton Federation, before she was out of the finish area.

She said she was happy that Canadian slider Mellisa Hollingsworth fell from second to fifth on her final run because she didn't like the way Canadian organizers cut the ice.

"It's karma that Canada didn't get on the medal stand," she said.

Pikus-Pace disagreed saying the course was "incredible" and "it's so smooth it's like a waterslide."

Uhlaender also complained that she didn't get enough support from the IBSF.

"There are a lot of issues with our federation," Uhlaender said. "Lack of support. Lack of funding. Honestly this week was a complete disaster as far as organization and getting things done."

She said she was up to 4 a.m. before the first day of training trying to get video.

Additionally, Uhlaender said she was hampered by leg injuries.

"These girls that are on the podium worked hard ... all year and they deserve it. They earned it," Uhlaender said. "And they slid awesome. And there's no doubt, they know it, if I was 100 percent I'd be there with them."

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