Bernotas ends US drought with skeleton gold

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ST. MORITZ, Switzerland (AP) — Eric Bernotas became the first American in nearly two years to win a World Cup skeleton race on Friday when the event was shortened to one run by race officials because of conditions at the start of the track.

Bernotas, of Avondale, Pa., won in 1 minute, 9.15 seconds, beating Kristan Bromley of Britain by 0.07 seconds. World Cup leader Martins Dukurs of Latvia was third.

“I’ve been sliding well over the last few weeks but I haven’t been able to put it together on race day,” Bernotas said. “I knew it was going to happen.”

In the women’s event, Shelley Rudman of Britain finished two runs in 2:20.42. Mellisa Hollingsworth of Canada was second in 2:20.46 and Kerstin Szymkowiak of Germany was third.

Katie Uhlaender of Breckenridge, Colo., was the top U.S. woman in sixth, two spots ahead of Noelle Pikus-Pace of Eagle Mountain, Utah.

Before Bernotas’ breakthrough, the top U.S. skeleton showing this season had been fifth.

“We’ve been working well together as a team, and the coaching staff has been incredible,” Bernotas said. “Our team has been sliding the way we’ve needed to, even though the results haven’t shown it.”

Although nothing will be made official by the International Federation of Bobsledding and Tobogganing until Saturday or Sunday, the U.S. men have all but clinched three skeleton starting spots for the Vancouver Olympics. Bernotas and Zach Lund will likely be joined by John Daly of Smithtown, N.Y., who won Intercontinental Cup races in Calgary on Thursday and Friday.

Daly’s wins not only put him ahead of U.S. teammate Matt Antoine, who still could be considered for the third Olympic spot, but also kept the Americans third in the world rankings.

The U.S. women will have two skeleton sleds in Vancouver, with Uhlaender and Pikus-Pace set to be the nominees for those spots. The USBSF plans to announce the full roster of Olympic qualifiers by Wednesday.

“It’s definitely coming along,” said Uhlaender, who is recovering from several offseason surgeries to repair a shattered kneecap. “I’ve been working nonstop to get to where I was, and I know it’ll be there for the games. … I still have a few weeks left to get even faster.”