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After several athletes retired following the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, U.S. Head Coach Tuffy Latour had the tough task of developing the next generation of athletes. He fostered a group of young athletes over the last three years, and more importantly, cultivated a sense of community among team members.
Noelle Pikus-Pace and Katie Uhlaender are the veterans of the U.S. skeleton squad, and the two women have joined forces to support one another in their individual quests for gold. Matt Antoine, John Daly and Kyle Tress have grown up together in the sport and the three young men support one another like brothers. With a supportive and positive environment, Team USA seems unbeatable. Pikus-Pace and Uhlaender often contest for gold at each stop, while the men are on the brink of reaching the medal stand.
Launched in 2009, a technology project has continued to advance the sleds, and Latour is certain the team will piece it all together in time for the Sochi Games. Protostar Engineering teamed with Machintek Corporation and deBotech to create Team USA’s sled for the Vancouver Games. Due to critical athlete feedback, the sled has since been improved and even helped Uhlaender win the 2012 world title.
The Sanki Sliding Center in Sochi is expected to favor the sliding style of Team USA, and has been called one of the most challenging tracks ever designed. Start times will be vital to a fast finish, and there are a few tricky curve combinations on the course that will require finesse. New ice preparation technology will ensure accurate and constant temperature control along the track, which can accommodate up to 9,000 spectators.
The maximum number of athletes the U.S. can qualify is three women and three men, with the final team set to be announced in January.
Nations will qualify based on international standings during the 2013-14 season. The U.S. is guaranteed one spot in the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, but can qualify up to three spots in each gender based on points during the qualification period that ends Jan. 19, 2014. A total of 30 athletes will compete on the men’s side, while 20 will take part in the women’s competition.
The selection criteria will be finalized early in 2013, but athletes will likely qualify based on international points. For example, if the U.S. qualifies two women for the Games, then the top two U.S. women in international points will qualify for the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team.
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