KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (Feb. 14, 2014)- John Daly (Smithtown, N.Y.) and Matt Antoine (Prairie du Chien, Wis.) are in third and fourth places, respectively, after the first two heats of the men's skeleton Olympic competition at the Sanki Sliding Center.
"It is ridiculously mind blowing to be in medal position," Daly said. "Medaling is something that you think about all the time. You know you can do it, but to execute is so hard. For me, it was a medal or nothing coming into this race. I don't know what's going to happen in four years, but I need to enjoy these runs and race like it's my last, because I don't know if I'll ever get this chance again."
Antoine held a slim lead of 0.02 seconds over Daly in the first heat after covering the course in 56.89 seconds. Alexander Tretiakov, appropriately nicknamed the "Russian Rocket," smashed the start record with a push time of 4.47 seconds and claimed the first run lead by 0.23 seconds over World Cup winner Martins Dukurs with a record-breaking finish of 55.95 seconds. Dukurs, however, was a distant 0.71 seconds ahead of Antoine, putting Dukurs and Tretiakov comfortably in medal contention after just one run.
"They really put it down," Daly said. "Tretiakov really threw it down. It's his track, it's his time, so it was kind of expected."
Daly laid down a blistering second heat time of 56.67 seconds to swap spots with Antoine heading into the medal deciding runs tomorrow. Antoine fell back 0.26 seconds to his teammate after clocking a second run of 56.95.
"Nothing is a foregone conclusion in this sport, anything can happen, but Tretiakov and Dukurs seem to have those first two medals locked in and the rest of the field is definitely fighting for bronze," Antoine said. "I think it's good to get the first day out of the way, it helps you relax. I'm a little more accustomed to the atmosphere and know what to expect heading into the next day."
Tretiakov extended his lead over Dukurs to 0.56 seconds with a two-run total of 1:51.99. Dukurs is more than one second ahead of Daly, making tomorrow's contest for bronze between Daly and Antoine, who are best friends.
"We had an idea that the two of us would be battling it out, so I don't think either of us is necessarily surprised," Antoine said. "Our goal is to win medals."
"It's a race for a medal," Daly said. "For me and Matt, it's a medal or nothing. I know we're both going to be going for it. A medal for the U.S. is a medal for the U.S. This program has struggled for a little bit, and it was because we were young. Now it's our time. Everything is lining up for us, and we just have to put down the runs."
First-time Olympian Kyle Tress (Ewing, N.J.) was in awe at the finish. Tress slid runs of 57.85 and 58.13 seconds and is in 21st position heading into the finals.
"It's so overwhelming up there," Tress said. "I tried envisioning it every single night before I went to bed what it was going to be like on that start line, but it's impossible. I'm a first-time Olympian, and I'm going to learn a lot from this experience."
The men's medal deciding heats will be held tomorrow at 6:45 p.m. The athlete with the lowest four-heat combined time will be declared the winner.
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Heats 1 & 2 results:
1. Alexander Tretiakov (RUS) 1:51.99 (55.95, 56.04); 2. Martins Dukurs (LAT) 1:52.55 (56.18, 56.37); 3. John Daly (USA) 1:53.58 (56.91, 56.67); 4. Matt Antoine (USA) 1:53.84 (56.89, 56.95);...21. Kyle Tress (USA) 1:55.98 (57.85, 58.13);