Uhlaender qualifies for next step in skeleton

7:33 AM, Feb 13, 2014   |    comments
US Katie Uhlaender Heat 2 of the Women's Skeleton event of the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 13, 2014 at the Sanki Sliding Center in Rosa Khutor. AFP PHOTO / LIONEL BONAVENTURE (Photo credit should read LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images)
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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia - Katie Uhlaender made mistakes on both of her skeleton runs Thursday but still is one of two American women in position to contend for an Olympic medal.

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Noelle Pikus-Pace is second and Uhlaender of Breckenridge, Colo., fourth with two runs remaining Friday at Sanki Sliding Center. Pikus-Pace is .44 seconds behind world No. 1-ranked Elizabeth Yarnold of Great Britain. Uhlaender is .14 behind third-place Elena Nikitina of Russia.

The U.S. women are going for their first Olympic medal since 2002 when the sport debuted in Salt Lake City.

"It's not over until it's over," said Uhlaender, who wore her late father Ted's National League championship ring around her neck coming down the track. "I'm not just going to do my thing and hopefully I can put two runs together because I had the bottom first run and the top second run. I've just got to put them together. It's awesome to see the quality of sliders here. Anything is possible."

Uhlaender, 29, trained for close to two months in 2013 at the World Athletics Center in Phoenix in preparation for her third Olympic run. She was sixth at the 2006 Turin Olympics and 11th in 2010 Vancouver. This season, she has been limited in competition due to a concussion, lowering her World Cup ranking to No. 16.

"I sacrificed my world ranking to recover," said Uhlaender, who started 15th in the first run because of her No. 16 world ranking. "You can only control so much and Picabo (Street, 2-time Olympic medalist in alpine skiing) told me last night there is no room for BS in my brain today. That's my motto going into this race."

Pikus-Pace, No. 2 in the world, raced well despite missing training her due to a back injury.

"I only had minimal training runs this week so I had to go down the track in my mind over and over again," said Pikus-Pace, 31, a mother of two children. "I haven't been feeling that well so to come out and get the first one out of the way, I came right back up to the top and watched my video because that's really my fifth run down this track since the World Cup last year. I tried to make those adjustments, and it seemed to help on that second run."

Pikus-Pace missed the 2006 Olympics after being struck by a bobsled in Calgary in October 2005. She was fourth at the Vancouver Olympics.

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