LAKE PLACID - Slide, lift, slide, lift, slide, win.
On Friday at Mount Van Hoevenberg, Katie Uhlaender of the United States slid to the women's skeleton title at the FIBT Bobsled and Skeleton World Championships. And after finally capturing the World Championship gold medal that eluded her, the Breckenridge, Colo. resident can now concentrate on achieving another goal she has been pursuing. In nine days, Uhlaender will try to become a two-season Olympian when she competes in the weightlifting Olympic trials in Columbus, Ohio.
In Lake Placid, Uhlaender added a World Championship gold to the bronze and silver she previously won in 2007 and 2008, and she did it with a consistent performance in a four-run race over two days. Uhlaender struggled at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and was racing with a broken heart in 2009, the last time the World Championships were held in Lake Placid, just after her father Ted, who was a professional baseball player, passed away.
Katie Uhlaender of the United States pumps her fists while heading up the finish ramp after she clinched the women’s skeleton title Friday at the 2012 FIBT Bobsled and Skeleton World Championships in Lake Placid.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
"I went to his funeral and four days later I raced," Uhlaender said of her last World Championship appearance in the Olympic Village. "I really felt like he was here. Honestly, this race for me was about breaking a curse."
While in Lake Placid this week, Uhlaender had been juggling training and competing on her skeleton sled with preparing for a possible trip to this year's summer Olympics in London as a weightlifter. She had a lifting session after racing on Thursday, and said she even mixed in a little weight training in between her third and fourth runs on Friday.
Uhlaender said it's been a tough few days balancing both sports, and among the people who helped encourage her was bobsledder Steve Holcomb, who captured the first of three American gold medals so far at these World Championships.
Skeleton World Championships Results
At Mount Van Hoevenberg, Lake Placid
1. Katie Uhlaender, United States, 3 minutes, 42.33 (55.54-55.49-55.62-55.68).
2. Mellisa Hollingsworth, Canada, 3:42.50 (55.64-55.57-55.61-55.68).
3. Elizabeth Yarnold, Britain, 3:42.69 (55.95-55.76-55.40-55.58).
4. Shelley Rudman, Britain, 3:43.13 (55.48-56.00-55.58-56.07).
5. Amy Williams, Britain, 3:43.24 (56.01-55.74-55.81-55.68).
6. Marion Thees, Germany, 3:43.86 (55.98-55.75-55.87-56.26).
7. Katharina Heinz, Germany, 3:44.39 (55.83-55.98-56.10-56.48).
8. Anja Huber, Germany, 3:44.50 (55.90-56.40-56.12-56.08).
9. Lucy Katherine Chaffer, Australia, 3:44.57 (55.98-55.96-56.05-56.58).
10. Annie O'Shea, United States, 3:44.60 (56.20-56.13-56.21-56.06).
"I was freaking out. Holcomb was my rock," Uhlaender said. "He just told me to do what I know how to do on the track. All I wanted to do was stay in the moment. I don't do anything unless it's all the way."
Uhlaender finished the race with a four-run total of 3 minutes, 42.33 seconds, which was less than two-tenths of a second ahead of runner-up Mellisa Hollingsworth of Canada. The next three spots went to athletes from Great Britain. Elizabeth Yarnold took bronze, World Cup points champion Shelley Rudman finished fourth and defending Olympic champion Amy Williams placed fifth.
Rudman jumped ahead of the 27-sled field with the fastest opening run on Thursday, but Uhlaender took the lead on the second run and never looked back. Uhlaender turned a .08 deficit from the first run into a .18 edge after Thursday's second trip down the track. She lost a little ground with her opening run Friday, but still held the lead, then nailed down the win by being one of the three racers finishing in the top five who ended with identical final-heat times of 55.68 seconds.
Yarnold, one of four British racers in the field, moved up from fourth place Thursday to the podium by putting down the fastest finish times in each of Friday's two runs.
Hollingsworth realized that Uhlaender would be tough to beat, especially after the American put down the fastest women's skeleton run in Sunday's team competition. But the Canadian also headed into the final heat believing she still had a chance to win the race.
"This is Katie's home track. She's a strong starter, she's training for her Olympic trials, so she's in great shape and knows this track inside and out," said Hollingsworth, who captured a bronze medal at last year's World Championships in Konigssee, Germany.
"I felt like I had a shot on the last run for sure. You have a shot every time you start on the block," she said. "You have a shot to win or a shot to plummet to your absolute worst nightmare. We're on the right track heading for Sochi. I'm happy."
Long Island's Annie O'Shea was the second American athlete in the race, breaking into the top 10 with a fast final run of 56.06, which was the sixth-best finish time of the fourth heat. O'Shea moved up two spots from her 12th-place position following Thursday's opening two runs.