2014 Winter Olympics Preview: Skeleton
By Jim Brighters, Olympic Staff Writer
(Sports Network) - For the fourth straight Olympics, skeleton is part of the games and Sochi's contest will be a heated one.
When skeleton, which is essentially luge on your stomach, and face-first, returned at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, it was the first time the discipline was in the Olympics since 1948.
Since 2002 with both men and women competing, the United States leads the way with six medals, including three golds and three silvers. Great Britain has walked off with five medals, followed by four for Canada.
The Sliding Center "Sanki" is built at the Alpika Service Mountain Ski Resort, with its track finishing area at Rzhanaya Polyana.
The Women's Heat begins Feb. 13 with the medal round one day later. The Men's Heat starts on Feb. 14 with the medal round slated for Feb. 15.
On the men's side, Martins Dukurs of Latvia has earned the favorite status. He's won two of four World Cup skeleton races this season and won his most recent race on Friday, Jan. 3 by a huge margin.
At that race, Dukurs topped his brother Tomass Dukurs for second.
The fate of the home country relies on Alexander Tretiakov. The Russian won bronze in 2010 and finished third behind the Dukurs brothers in Germany. He leads the season-long World Cup standings, just ahead of Martins Dukurs.
Third on that season-long list is American Matt Antoine. He is the best hope for the U.S. after missing out on the Vancouver Games and medalled twice in the season's first three races, including a victory in Lake Placid.
American John Daly is 10th in the World Cup race and finished fifth in Germany. That made two straight top-five showings for Daly.
2010 Olympic champion Jon Montgomery is in danger of not making the Canadian team. John Fairbairn and Eric Neilson were named to the Canadian team, but a third member could be added. Montgomery will be competing on the secondary International Cup circuit and won't have a realistic chance at earning major points.
Noelle Pikus-Pace is the best bet for the Americans, and a favorite in Sochi. She finished fourth in the 2010 games, then retired. Pikus-Pace returned in 2012 and is second in the World Cup standings behind Britain's Lizzie Yarnold.
The 25-year-old Yarnold has won three World Cup races this season and visited the podium twice more. She would like to follow in the footsteps of fellow Englishwoman, Amy Williams, who took the gold in Vancouver. Yarnold's team- mate Shelley Rudman, is the reigning world champion and the 2006 Olympic silver medallist.
Canada's Sarah Reid stands a decent chance at a medal in Sochi based on five medals this season and a fourth-place standing in the World Cup rankings. Mellisa Hollingsworth will join Reid on the Canadian side.
01/09 12:22:41 ET