Brit pulls off upset in skeleton

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WHISTLER, British Columbia --- Noelle Pikus-Pace spent 10 years chasing a medal, and missed it by 0.10 seconds.

Women's skeleton gold medal winner Amy Williams, of Great Britain, is held aloft by bronze medalist Anja Huber (left) and silver medalist Kerstin Szymkowiak, a fellow German.  Associated Press
Associated Press
Women's skeleton gold medal winner Amy Williams, of Great Britain, is held aloft by bronze medalist Anja Huber (left) and silver medalist Kerstin Szymkowiak, a fellow German.

Spoiled by a spoiler.

Amy Williams finished off a surprising -- some protesters said tainted -- run to the women's skeleton gold medal at the Vancouver Games on Friday, giving Britain its first individual Winter Olympics title since figure skater Robin Cousins prevailed at Lake Placid in 1980.

"It was the perfect performance," bronze medalist Anja Huber of Germany said. "She's the right Olympic champion."

Not everyone agrees.

The International Federation of Bobsleigh and Tobogganing said Canada filed a protest after the race about the helmet Williams used. A person familiar with the filing told The Associated Press that it was "more detailed" than the one filed by the United States a day earlier on the same grounds.

"It's pretty much the same as everyone else's helmet," Williams said. "And if people want to try and play mind games that's fine."

The FIBT was not expected to hear the latest protest until late Friday night, since jury members were also monitoring the final two runs of the men's competition that started shortly after the women's Olympic event concluded.

FIBT spokesman Don Krone said the second protest is expected to be denied.

Williams finished four runs at the Whistler Sliding Center in 3 minutes, 35.64 seconds. Germans took silver and bronze, with Kerstin Szymkowiak finished 0.56 seconds off Williams' pace and Huber came in third.

"I feel like I'm in a little bubble," Williams said. "I'm not quite sure if it's real or not. I can't believe it. It's just brilliant."

Pikus-Pace walked off the track for the final time before retirement thinking she missed a medal.

The protests tried to change that.

Williams had never before won a race against all the world's top women sliders. Until now, her career highlights included a silver medal at last year's world championships.

At the Olympics, her fast times were the talk of a track where concerns over speed -- exacerbated by the death of a Georgian men's luge athlete in training hours before the opening ceremony -- have been constant. The protests say that a series of tiny ridges called spoilers across the top of Williams' helmet gave her an illegal edge.

So for now, Pikus-Pace finished fourth in her final race, missing bronze by a mere 0.10 seconds.

"I knew I wouldn't be satisfied unless I gave it everything I had," said the longtime racer from Eagle Mountain, Utah. "And I think I did that."

A gold-medal favorite entering the 2006 Olympic season before her leg was shattered in a freak accident, Pikus-Pace came to Whistler insisting she was going to be in the medal hunt.

"It's been a long ride to get here, missing out on Torino, getting run over by a bobsled and having a baby," Pikus-Pace said.


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