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2010 Winter Olympics roundup: Orem's Pikus-Pace still in the running for skeleton medal

WHISTLER, British Columbia — Noelle Pikus-Pace is just sixteen hundredths of a second from a bronze medal in two rounds of skeleton at Whistler Olympic Park.

"This is amazing," said the Orem native. "I could never have imagined how I would feel in this moment. It's indescribable."

The women have two more rounds of sliding Friday with round three starting at 3:45 p.m. (Pacific Time).

"I really let it fly," said Pikus_Pace. "I let it go and it really felt good. There are two new runs tomorrow, so I need to take it one run at a time. There's no doubt in my mind that I could win this. I'm not allowing any limitations in my mind, and I'm going to show up tomorrow thinking that it's mine for the taking."

The Mountain View High and UVU alum isn't going to waste an opportunity many years in the making. She was on the verge of her Olympic dream in 2005 when a bobsled hit her and broke her leg. She was back on the track within six weeks, but failed to make the 2006 U.S. Olympic Team.

She came back stronger than ever and won the 2007 World Championship, but then took a year off to have her first child.

Now with 12 medals, a World Cup title and a gold and silver at World Championships, an Olympic medal is the only thing left on her to-do list.

"For over a year I've been trying to picture this moment," said Pikus-Pace. "I don't think anything can prepare you for how big this is, how many people there are screaming for you on the way down."

Written on her sled is "100's of loved ones, 10 years, four runs, one sled, one dream." Wearing her signature pink speed suit, Pikus-Pace stood at the finish waving to her family in the stands.

"Those words on my sled describe what it's taken for me to be here," said Pikus-Pace. "It's been a journey, but I don't regret anything or wish I'd had a different path to be here."

Pace's teammate Katie Uhlaender, who broke her knee cap and spent much of the season on crutches, is in ninth place.

Amy Williams from Great Britain currently holds the lead. She set track record breaking runs of 53.83 and 54.13 seconds, respectively.

SPEEDSKATING: It was not the finish four-time Olympian Jen Rodriguez had been hoping for.

Still, the top-10 finish was something to savor after the hard work it took to get back in the game.

"I have no regrets coming back at all," Rodriguez said. "A top 8, top 10 finish is great for me. I'm really very happy."

Rodriguez was the top finisher with a time of 1:17.08, good enough for seventh place.

In Thursday's 1,000 meter race, Canada won it's third Gold medal of the games when Christine Nesbitt earned the top time of 1:16.56. Annette Gerritsen, Netherlands, won silver and her teammate Laurine van Riessen earned the bronze.

U.S. skater Heather Richardson skated to ninth place with 1:17.37, which was a thrill for the first-time Olympian.

"I felt awesome," she said. "I had confidence from my 500m to help me through it."

Elli Ochowicz was 26th; Rebekah Bradford was 29th.

Asked if the slower ice affected her, Ochowicz said no.

"It wasn't the ice, it was me," she said. "It was my legs. I think I left them at the village today."

BOBSLED: Coaches expected to name Mike Kohn's brakeman. He had some training runs on the Whistler Track and now knows first-hand just how difficult it is to navigate it.

"I'm starting to get a little more technical work in by watching video and analyzing my runs," said Mike Kohn, driver of USA No. 3, whose crew includes Ogden's Bill Schuffenhauer. "My first run today wasn't great, but it's OK, we're still in the mix. I'm happy with it, and I think we'll be fine."

The Bobsled athletes continue to train Friday and they begin competition on Saturday.

MEN'S 20K INDIVIDUAL BIATHLON: Heber City's Jeremy Teela did not compete due to an illness.

In the other two races, he'd been the top U.S. finisher.

Tim Burke finished first for the U.S. in 45th place. The event was won by Norway's Emil Hegle Svendsen, who earned a time of 48.22.5. His teammate, Ole Einar Bjoerndalen was third with a time of 48:32. The silver medal went to Sergey Novikov of Belarus, who finished with a time of 48:32.

U.S. athlete Lowell Bailey was 57th; Jay Hakkinen was 58th.

WOMEN'S 15K BIATHLON: Tora Berger dominated from start to finish in the women's 15-kilometer individual race, becoming the first Norwegian woman to win an Olympic race. Lanny Barnes was 23rd, best by an American since 1994.

e-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com