Russians sweep 1st World Cup skeleton race of season

IGLS, Austria (AP) — A pair of Russian sliders opened this Olympic season with victories in World Cup skeleton races on Friday.

Alexander Tretiakov and Elena Nikitina both rallied in the second heat of the two-run competitions.

Tretiakov won the men’s race over Latvia’s Martins Dukurs by 0.07 seconds in 1 minute, 45.07 seconds. Germany’s Christopher Grotheer was third in 1:45.23.

Nikitina took the women’s race in 1:47.49, a tenth of a second better than Kimberly Bos of the Netherlands. Kim Meylemans of Belgium was third in 1:47.62

Dukurs — a winner of 85 World Cup medals — had the lead in the men’s race after the first heat. Meylemans led the women’s race at the halfway point.

It was a difficult day for the U.S., with Kelly Curtis’ ninth-place finish the top showing by an American. It was Curtis’ second career World Cup start.

“Everyone knows what the end goal is in February,” Curtis said. “I’m trying to break it into manageable pieces, take it day by day and put something respectable together on race day each week.”

Megan Henry was 10th in the women’s race, and Katie Uhlaender — bidding for her fifth Olympics in what she plans to be her final season — was 16th.

For the U.S. men, Austin Florian was 23rd and John Daly was 24th.

“We didn’t execute today, and we’re already regrouping so we’re prepared for next week’s race,” U.S. coach Tuffy Latour said. “The pressure can get to you in an Olympic season, and I think we saw some of that today.”

Saturday’s schedule at the Austrian track has reigning world champion Kaillie Humphries among those set to compete in the women’s monobob race, and the first two-man bobsled race of the season. It wraps up Sunday with women’s bobsled and a four-man bobsled race.

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