Men's skeleton medal favorites
BY Maximillian Rottenecker
Skeleton is a fast sport and at the Olympics one mistake can be the difference between a gold medal and a disappointing finish. Here are the favorites to win it all in Sochi:
Throughout all bobsled and skeleton disciplines, there is no athlete who has dominated more since Vancouver than Latvia’s Martins Dukurs. Whether it was the overall World Cup, the European Championships or individual races, Martins Dukurs has managed to win almost anything a Skeleton athlete can win. The only thing he is missing at this point in his career is an Olympic gold medal. In Vancouver he came in second behind local hero Jon Montgomery and Sochi 2014 might be his last chance to add the last missing piece to his career. It will be interesting to see how Dukurs deals with this pressure, but his recent results have shown that he is capable of racing fast on the Olympic track, winning the World Cup race in 2013.
During the competition in Sochi, Alexander Tretjyakov will try to extend the streak of local athletes winning the gold medal at the Olympics. He is one of the most consistent athletes in the World Cup circus, finishing in the top three of the competition on a very constant basis. The local crowd will be in full support of the 28-year old from Krasnoyarsk, who already has a bronze medal from the Vancouver games. Tretjyakov will try to repeat his excellent performance from the World Cup race at Sochi, where he placed second. In case Dukurs shows a weakness during the competition, the Russian might be the first to take advantage of it and win an Olympic title for the hosting country.
The second athlete from Latvia in the group of favorites is Tomass Dukurs. Dukurs has been as consistent as Tretjyakov over the past few years, proving many times in the World Cup that he deserves to be one of the top Skeleton athletes in the business. In 2010 he just missed a medal by finishing fourth at Vancouver. At 32 years of age nobody knows how long Dukurs is going to race after Sochi, so this might be his final attempt at an Olympic medal. In order to make this happen, he has to build on his experience of many races and try to get more familiar with the track in Sochi. In 2013 he finished fifth, which leaves room for improvement, but he will prepare and arrive ready when the Olympic Games start.
After a very promising third place finish in Sochi this year, Frank Rommel can also be counted in as one of the favorites next year. The fifth best in last year’s World Cup has had multiple top finishes at big races in his career and hopes to add another one to his list in Sochi. However, Rommel disappointed at Vancouver, only finishing seventh after a promising World Cup season in 2010. If Rommel can continue the strong second half of last year’s season, he is always good for a medal finish at the Olympics, but he has to show that he can race up to his potential in an Olympic race.
There are two athletes representing Team USA with hopes for a top finish: John Daly and Matt Antoine. Daly had a good 2013 season with a number of top 10 results, finishing ninth overall and making it his best overall World Cup season of his career. He made a splash at the World Cup race in Sochi, where he came in fourth place. Even though the competition is very tough at the Olympic Games, Daly seems to like the track and will enter the competition with a lot of self-confidence. Repeating the 2013 performance is the key to success for Daly, who can be seen as one of the favorites going into the Olympic season.
Antoine struggled throughout the 2012-2013 season as he regained strength and speed following knee surgery, but he will also be a strong contender in Sochi. Antoine is one of the most consistent athletes on tour, and if he can thread together four flawless runs in Sochi, he’ll also be battling for a podium position alongside his teammate.
Lastly one cannot count out Jon Montgomery. The Canadian is the defending Olympic champion from Vancouver and will be looking to repeat his triumph from four years ago. Even though Montgomery has had less top finishes over the last few seasons and loses the home crowd advantage he had four years ago, it would be wrong to write him off. His 12th place finish in Sochi 2013 is not the most promising, but he is an Olympic specialist. In 2010 he was fifth overall in the World Cup standings before winning his title, which is why one has to expect Montgomery to place well in the Olympic race.