By JOHN KEKIS
AP Sports Writer
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (AP) - As he basked in the glory of his latest triumph, Martins Dukurs draped a Latvian flag around his shoulders in celebration as his teammates and fans roared all around.
For a moment he almost looked like Superman and it was easy to see why he's earned that nickname. In the world of men's skeleton, he has no peer.
Dukurs won his second straight gold medal at the world championships on Saturday night, besting runner-up Frank Rommel of Germany by a whopping margin of more than 2 seconds. It was his 13th victory in 14 races.
"This is unbelievable. My season, perfect. Just one lost race," Dukurs said. "I didn't expect so good results. I stitched together four good runs and I'm happy with that."
Dukurs finished the four heats in 3 minutes, 37.09 seconds, 2.08 seconds ahead of Rommel.
Ben Sandford of New Zealand used a strong third run to vault past Matt Antoine of the United States and take the bronze. Sandford finished in 339.50, 0.15 ahead of fourth-place finisher Sergei Chudinov of Russia, and became only the second athlete from the Southern hemisphere to win a medal in skeleton, luge or bobsled at the Winter Olympic or world championship level. Sandford's uncle Bruce won gold at the 1992 skeleton world championships in Calgary.
"It feels amazing," said Sandford, who finished 17th in World Cup with one podium, a silver at St. Moritz, Switzerland. "It's funny. It's 20 years to the month since he won in Calgary, and he was instrumental in getting me into this sport and helping me develop as an athlete. It's fantastic that me and New Zealand can be back on the podium.
Sandford had a bit of an edge. He spent the better part of the World Cup season training in Lake Placid.
"I know if I slide well, I can be in the top five," he said. "I'm not surprised, but I wasn't sure I could make it into the top three."
Leading Rommel by 0.69 seconds after the first two heats on Friday night, Dukurs put the race out of reach with a third run of 54.34 seconds on a snowy, windswept night at frigid Mount Van Hoevenberg.
Rommel followed with a mistake-filled run of 55.21 to fall 1.56 seconds behind, and Antoine, of Prairie du Chien, Wisc., finished his third heat in 55 seconds to fade to fourth, 1.84 seconds off the lead.
It was a bitter disappointment for Antoine, who was upbeat after zooming into third place on Friday night. He was looking to wrest the silver from Rommel and instead was passed by Sandford and Sergei Chudinov of Russia, tying Dukurs' older brother Tomass for fifth, 2.66 seconds behind.
"It's not where I wanted to finish," Antoine said. "I know I was capable of a lot better than this. It's a disappointing result. Not a whole lot of positives to take out of today. There's been a lack of consistency this year, and it showed on the final run. Some people might be happy finishing fifth, but I'm not."
Teammate John Daly, of Smithtown, N.Y., finished eighth, 3.43 seconds behind the winner.
"I left it out there," said Daly, who was third-fastest in the third heat before faltering on the final run. "I knew I had to throw down a smoker. If it was seventh or it was 20th, I really wouldn't have been too disappointed. I was going for on the podium."
Dukurs was the man to beat from the start. Still, Dukurs brushed off his stunning success after Friday night's runs.
"In my country, second place is not a place for me," Dukurs said. "They're just waiting for me to win, and that's tough. I'm trying. Big, big pressure. I need to find some way to get out of all this."
This was not the way as Dukurs dominated all four runs.
"It's pretty basic. There's no secret there for Dukurs," Daly said. "When you get the lead from the beginning, it's hard to catch."
After three heats, only a crash would deprive Dukurs of the gold. Only Rommel, Sandford and Antoine were within 2 seconds of the flying Latvian. Alexander Kroeckel of Germany was 10th, and he was nearly 3 seconds behind.
Dukurs' only loss in the previous 13 races came at Konigssee, Germany in January. After a bad first run left him out of the top 10, he was threatening the track record on the second run, nearly came off his sled, and still managed to finish sixth.
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