KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- Matt Antoine was on the outside looking in. The small-town kid from Wisconsin sat in fourth place and knew he needed two fast runs to earn a spot on the podium.
And that’s exactly what he did.
Antoine strung together his best two runs of the Sochi Games and earned the bronze medal Saturday at the Sanki Sliding Center.
“It’s indescribable,” said Antoine on earning his first Olympic medal. “Once you see that clock you know for sure. I was just screaming and celebrating the whole way up, and once I saw my coach – him going crazy – and my family in the crowd, it’s unbelievable.”
Antoine began the night with his best run of the Games. The 28-year-old covered the mile-long course in 56.69 after making a runner adjustment on his sled late Friday night.
“The first thing Tuffy [Latour] and I said to each other after the first two runs yesterday was that something has to change,” said Antoine on day one’s performance. “We made a runner change last night knowing that even though I was having good runs, I just didn’t seem to have the speed down the track.”
He opened the Games with runs of 56.89 and 56.95. Despite great lines, Antoine simply wasn’t going fast enough. The ice was soft so he decided to switch to a runner that wouldn’t cut into the ice as much. The adjustment worked, pushing him past teammate John Daly into third position with one run remaining.
“I knew coming out [Saturday] that I had to attack,” said Antoine, who’s making his Olympic debut. “There’s no taking it easy. It’s the Olympics – everyone’s going for it. You have to go hard from the start.”
The speed continued for Antoine, who stopped the clock in 56.73 on his final run – his second-fastest time of the Games. In front of family and friends, the Prairie Du Chien, Wis., native saw his total time of 3:47.26 and knew he’d found the podium. Antoine’s medal marks the 14th U.S. medal of the Sochi Games and seventh bronze.
Meanwhile, Daly was in fourth position entering the final run, but lost control at the start when his sled popped out of the start grooves.
“I went for it. I gave it my all and it popped out,” said Daly, a two-time Olympian. “[Sochi] has been the most fun I’ve had in my entire career up until that fourth run. I knew the USA was going to bring home a medal, I just wished it went down differently. I wish I gave myself a shot that last run and I feel that I didn’t.”
Daly fell to 15th place with a four-run total of 3:49.11 with times of 56.91, 56.67, 56.99 and 58.54. Like they’ve done their entire career, Daly and Antoine pushed each other up until the final run of the Games.
“John and I pushed each other to be where we are,” said Antoine on his teammate. “I don’t think either one of us would be competing for bronze if it hadn’t been for the other person. We’ve made each other better over the last 10 years and my heart goes out to him.”
Also competing for Team USA was Kyle Tress, who finished 21st with a total time of 2:53.74.