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Noelle Pikus-Pace takes silver for US in women's skeleton

By Jerry Hinnen | Staff Writer

Utah's Noelle Pikus-Pace began the second day of the women's skeleton competition in second and put together two solid runs to secure a silver medal, the first Olympic medal of her career and the first for any U.S. skeleton athlete since 2002.

Great Britain's Elizabeth Yarnold took gold in 3:52.89, nearly a full second (and yes, that's a lot) ahead of Pikus-Pace's four-run total of 3:53.86. American Katie Uhlaender came agonizingly close to the bronze, finishing just four one-hundredths of a second behind Russia's Elena Nikitina.

The medal is the pinnacle of a long and inspiring comeback for the 31-year-old Pikus-Pace, who was considered the gold-medal favorite in the build-up for Torino 2006 before a runaway bobsled smashed into her leg in a freak training accident. Pikus-Pace originally planned to retire after finishing fourth in Vancouver but elected to make one more run at a medal in Sochi.

After winning the medal, Pikus-Pace leapt in the stands to enjoy a tearful embrace with her family and supporters.

Pikus-Pace was second behind Yarnold and Nikitina after Thursday's first run, but moved into second on her second and remained comfortably there -- neither in danger of being caught from behind nor too close to challenging Yarnold -- through both of Friday's runs.

"I just really enjoyed it, it was a little bit messy, but I just let the sled run as much as I could, pick up as much speed, and I just loved it," Yarnold told Reuters of her final run.

Breckenridge, Colo.'s Uhlaender slipped to fifth from fourth after the third run, but a strong fourth run saw her leapfrog Russia's Olga Potylitsina -- who herself finished only .10 out of the bronze -- and into bronze-medal positon before Nikitina just got across the line in time to win the last podium spot.

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