The contrast between the two American medal hopefuls in Saturday's skeleton finals was stunning. One, Matt Antoine, was elated, having just put down a 56.73 on his fourth and final run to secure a bronze medal – the USA's first medal in the sport since 2002.
But for John Daly, his fourth run of 58.54 represented absolute devastation. Daly, who came into Saturday's finals in third place after two solid aggregate heats, was off-balance from the start, swerving to one side of the track as he struggled to gain his momentum. His start eventually led him to the wall, all-but-assuring that his medal hopes were gone. After his run, he lay on the track with his hands on his head, knowing that the USA's only hope for a medal belonged to Antoine. He dropped from fourth to 15th place due to his friction-filled stumble.
"I went for it," Daly told USAToday. "I basically gave it my all. [The sled] popped out. There's no one to blame but me. It's all on my shoulders. I do wish I had a second chance at that run, and I know I could've done well."
"It was the most fun I've had in my career until that fourth run, and I knew USA was going to bring home a medal. I just wish it went down differently. ... I would have rather come across the line in first and just be able to look at my family that's been waiting and hold up my American flag and get my Olympic moment. I messed up and didn't get it. I guess I'll have to wait four more years."
It was essentially a race for bronze, as hometown favorite Alexander Tretiakov entered Saturday with a significant two-heat lead of more than half a second (a lot in skeleton). He won gold with his fourth-run time of 56.02, while Latvia's Martins Dukurs took home silver. Tretiakov benefitted from a home crowd and a familiarity with the track, one he practiced on dozens of times prior to the Games. His four-race total time was 3:44.29, well ahead of Dukurs' 3:45.10.
But for the USA, which only had a realistic chance at one medal, bronze will more-than suffice.