IGLS, Austria - Annie O'Shea of Port Jefferson Station led the U.S. in the women's skeleton World Cup opener at the Olympic Sliding Center in Igls this morning. O'Shea finished seventh to start her second full season on the World Cup tour with her best result ever.
"I'm really excited with how today went," O'Shea said. "This is definitely a step in the right direction and a huge improvement from last season."
The top six athletes earn medals, and O'Shea was just 0.02 seconds shy of receiving her first World Cup award. O'Shea's best World Cup effort before today was 10th.
"I wanted a top six finish so bad," O'Shea said. "I wish I could have been on the podium, but at the same time I'm really happy with the result."
"Annie was not only close to a top six result today, but she was close to the medal stand," said Tuffy Latour, U.S. skeleton head coach. "Today was a good first effort, and I'm really happy to see her improvements. I think there are exciting things to come."
O'Shea has established herself as one of the fastest push athletes on the skeleton tour, and today was no exception. The 23-year-old powered off the block in 5.37 and 5.39 seconds for momentum down the track. O'Shea trailed former world champion Anja Huber by 0.02 seconds for the fastest start time of the competition.
"It's great to feel like my pushes are benefitting me and that I can keep improving," O'Shea said. "I'm really happy with today as a whole. It was my best finish and I had two great pushes and two consistent runs. This is a great way to start the new season, and I hope to build on this next week."
O'Shea clocked consistent runs of 54.99 and 55.00 seconds for a combined time of 1:49.99. The emerging athlete finished seventh amongst a strong field of 24 competitors.
Olga Potylitsina was the upset winner of the race. The Russians showed their strength leading into a home Olympics in 2014 when Potylitsina posted a solid second run to lead the field by 0.23 seconds. The 22-year-old clocked a two-run total of 1:49.39 for the first win of the season and the first victory of her career.
Emma Lincoln-Smith from Australia has been flirting with the podium for several years. Today she cracked the boundary to claim silver with a combined time of 1:49.62. The only familiar face on the medal stand was 2006 Olympic medalist Mellisa Hollingsworth, who could only muster a bronze medal finish with a total time of 1:49.66.
Kimber Gabryszak (Park City, Utah) struggled with the course in her first race of the season and finished 20th with a two-run total of 1:52.30.
Katie Uhlaender is skipping the first World Cup races while she pursues her dream to represent the U.S. in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games for weight lifting. In her absence, Rachelle Rasmussen (Belmont, Calif.) made her World Cup debut before joining the Intercontinental Cup team. Rasmussen's first run of 56.53 seconds put her in 23rd, which did not qualify her for a second run.