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American DQ’ed from win in World Cup opener

November 30, 2013

American Noelle Pikus-Pace was reduced to tears after her initial win in the skeleton World Cup event in Calgary on Friday was stripped from her after a British protest over some tape on her sled.

Britain’s complaint over the extra tape wrapped around the handle of her sled was upheld despite Pikus-Pace complaining it had been cleared by officials earlier in the week.

Britain’s Elizabeth Yarnold was promoted to first place, Russia’s Elena Nikitina moved up to second, and Australia’s Michelle Steele went into third

U.S. officials are appealing against the disqualification.

“Clearly, clearly, I should not have been disqualified,” Pikus-Pace told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “I’m so frustrated. People get away with whatever and I get disqualified for a piece of tape? A piece of tape that they said was OK? It has no competitive advantage whatsoever.”

Sleds have to adhere to very strict rules, and inspectors gave Pikus-Pace’s sled the all-clear on Tuesday, with the extra tape around her handle. The tape, Pikus-Pace said, assists her start of races but otherwise physics theory suggests it would only adversely affect her times.

“Many other athletes have the same thing,” Pikus-Pace said. “We were all told it’s OK.”

The FIBT, the sanctioning body for bobsled and skeleton, did not immediately return a request for comment.

Pikus-Pace’s hope is to end her final Olympic skeleton season with a gold medal. She was in line for a medal at the 2010 Vancouver Games and finished 0.10 seconds shy of the bronze, which some in the American camp felt she should have been awarded because of what they argued were irregularities with a British slider’s helmet.

And now, this Olympic season is starting with some drama as well.

Pikus-Pace was in second after the first run, then overtook Yarnold in the second and final heat. Pikus-Pace’s two-run time was 1 minute, 54.88 seconds. Yarnold was 0.16 seconds back and Nikitina took third, another 0.24 seconds off the winning pace.

“I could feel the speed,” Pikus-Pace said after her final run. “My head got sucked down ... but I didn’t know how fast it was.”

Ultimately, it didn’t matter, though even Yarnold tipped her cap to Pikus-Pace after the race.

“She was exceptional,” Yarnold said.

The men’s competition was far more simple. Latvia’s Martins Dukurs is going to be the one to catch this season — again — and he let the circuit know exactly that with a dominant showing.

Dukurs won easily in 1:51.39. He was 0.75 seconds ahead — a gigantic winning margin in a sliding sport — of Russia’s Alexander Tretiakov, and a whopping 1.35 seconds better than third-place Dominic Edward Parsons of Britain.

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