ALTENBERG, Germany-Twenty-six athletes began their battle for the women's skeleton World Championship title in the first two heats of competition in Altenberg, Germany today. Over 3,000 students were organized into groups along the track to cheer for each of the 14 nations, cheering wildly as the sleds navigated the daunting 17-corner course. World Cup Champion Katie Uhlaender (Breckenridge, Colo.) finished just 0.29 seconds from the leader with a two-run total of 2:02.76. With hundreds of students cheering at the start, Uhlaender focused on only one person."I saw my dad at the start, and that's all I needed to see,"Uhlaender said."I'm really happy he's here."Uhlaender pushed a start time of 5.71 seconds for a first run time of 1:00.47, just 0.18 seconds from the leader, home track hero Anja Huber. Eager to add World Champion to her title, Uhlaender burst off the block in the second run with a start time of 5.68 seconds, fastest of the heat, for a run of 1:02.29."I steered too hard on ice that was too soft in the first run,"Uhlaender said."I was psyched about my push in the second heat, but I wasn't too happy with my run. My sled broke away in the beginning of four and went sideways, which killed my speed. Hopefully tomorrow I can be more consistent."Huber from Germany is currently in the lead with a two-run total of 2:02.47 after runs of 1:00.29 and 1:02.18. In third is Michelle Kelly from Canada, 0.20 seconds from Uhlaedner, with a combined time of 2:02.76 after sliding runs of 1:00.99 and 1:01.97. Annie O'Shea (Port Jefferson Station, N.Y.) suffered a hamstring injury while competing in Junior World Championships in Igls, Austria two weeks ago. Knowing she was not at peak performance, O'Shea made the decision not to race, giving U.S. National Champion Keslie Tomlinson (Potomac Falls, Va.) the opportunity to compete in her first World Championships."Annie's decision to not race was the most mature decision from the youngest member of the team,"said Greg Sand, U.S. skeleton assistant coach."It says something about Annie's character that she's able to put herself aside for the benefit of the team in the biggest race of the year."O'Shea made her World Cup debut this season, posting two top-ten results. The young American, 20, was looking forward to her first World Championships, but chose not to race with her injury so that the team could field the strongest athletes."Annie made a tough decision to do what was best for the team, and I'm really proud of her,"said Orvie Garret, U.S. skeleton head coach."She has been a huge help all week with taking track notes and videotaping training. She is a part of this World Championship team."Tomlinson finished the Intercontinental Cup season tied for sixth overall, and was grateful and excited for the opportunity to race."This is pretty crazy,"Tomlinson said at the finish."I was really excited when I found out I would be racing, but at the same time you never want one of your teammates to be hurt."Tomlinson slid to an impressive 13th place result after the first two heats with a combined time of 2:06.84. Tomlinson slid a first run time of 1:04.42, 16th best of the heat, and moved up four positions in the second heat with a time of 1:02.42."I've only been down this track three times before, and I learned a lot this week,"Tomlinson said."I had a tough day on the top of the track, and I know there's a lot I can fix. I got my race nerves out of the way, and I'm looking forward to tomorrow."Courtney Yamada (Boise, Idaho) slid a two-run total of 2:07.79. Yamada pushed a start time of 5.82 seconds for a first run of 1:04.65, and a second run start time of 5.91 seconds for a second run of 1:03.23."I wanted to do the best that I could today and not really be concerned with results,"Yamada said."I tried to change my mindset after the last day of training, and decided I would have fun regardless of the result. It's been a long season, I've had some trouble, but I'm ready to put together two solid runs tomorrow and to have fun."The World Championship title will be decided tomorrow, Saturday, Feb. 23 at 3 am EST. Watch the action LIVE on NBCOlympics.com. For complete results of today's race, please visit www.bobsleigh.com, the Web site of the Federation International de Bobsleigh et de Tobogganning (FIBT). Results: 1. Anja Huber (GER) 2:02.47 (1:00.29, 1:02.18); 2. Katie Uhlaender (USA) 2:02.76 (1:00.47, 1:02.29); 3. Michelle Kelly (CAN) 2:02.96 (1:00.99, 1:01.97);_13. Keslie Tomlinson (USA) 2:06.80 (1:04.42, 1:02.42);_19. Courtney Yamada (USA) 2:07.88 (1:04.65, 1:03.23); About the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation'
The United States Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, based in Lake Placid, N.Y., is the national governing body for the sports of bobsled and skeleton in the United States. The USBSF would like to thank its sponsors, suppliers and contributors for their support: Allianz Life, Columbia Sportswear Company, Speedo, CW-X, KBC Helmets, ULU Boots, Racing Electronics, Schenker Logistics, Lumber Liquidators and Whelen Engineering. For more information, please visit the USBSF Web site at www.usbsf.com.