Germany and Canada win WC skeleton races

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The home-ice advantage for the U.S. skeleton team vanished for the second straight week in World Cup competition and Canada and Germany took advantage in the snowless Adirondack Mountains. With the Winter Olympics in Canada less than three months away, Frank Rommel led a 1-2 German finish in the men's race on Friday at Mount Van Hoevenberg, only hours after Mellisa Hollingsworth had won gold for Canada in the women's event. "It was a strong team performance," Rommel said after the Germans took three of the top six spots. "We have a good team." "I think they're trying to send a message," U.S. slider Noelle Pikus-Pace, the top U.S. finisher in fifth behind Hollingsworth. "This season is really critical. Everybody is out for that gold medal and coming out strong. This is the most competitive season we've had since I've been a part of the sport. It's very, very tough competition." The victory was sweet redemption for Rommel, who won four World Cup races last season before struggling to 13th place in the skeleton world championships here. He posted the fastest times on both runs to easily beat teammate Sandro Stielicke in the second race of the World Cup season. Rommel finished in 1 minute, 50.88 seconds, nearly a half-second ahead of Stielicke. "It's kind of revenge for last year's world championships here," Rommel said. "It wasn't my race then. This time I knew how to take care of myself. I'm quite happy to bring it all together today." Stielicke finished in 1:51.36, followed by Martins Dukurs of Latvia, who won the World Cup opener a week ago at Park City, Utah. Dukurs took the bronze, just 0.01 seconds behind Stielicke, and Dukurs' brother Tomass was fourth in 1:51.50. The top U.S. finisher was Eric Bernotas in fifth at 1:51.71, followed by Zach Lund in 10th at 1:52.14, and rookie John Daly 11th at 1:52.15 in just his second career World Cup race. In two races, the top finish by the American men has been a fifth in each event. Blame it on Mother Nature. The opener at Park City was plagued by heavy snow. On Friday, sliders faced a soft track because of a steady overnight rain and temperatures in the 40s. That left some water on the course and made the race much different from the fast conditions that prevailed during a week of training. "The soft ice takes a little bit of the home-track advantage away," said Lund, who's been nursing a sore hamstring. "We've had a spate of bad luck at our home tracks with the weather for our sliding styles. When it's harder, you have more speed, and the more speed helps you make up time down the track. That's just racing." Still, the 24-year old Daly was ecstatic. He posted the second- and third-best starts among the 23 competitors and even beat Canadian Jeff Pain, a former World Cup champion and the silver medalist at the 2006 Turin Olympics. "It went good, two solid runs," Daly said. "That's the best job I can do today. I'm moving up. Some of these guys have been on the tour half of my lifetime. It's definitely intimidating. You make one mistake and they'll eat you up." Hollingsworth led after a first-heat run of 57.54 seconds and finished the two-heat race in 1:54.85 to edge Shelley Rudman of Great Britain by 0.23 seconds. Rudman finished just 0.05 seconds ahead of world champion Marion Trott of Germany, who took the bronze in 1:55.13. Hollingsworth's gold gave Canada its third medal in two races. "We definitely have come out with a great start, having two podiums," said Hollingsworth, who was third a week ago, just behind silver-medal-winning teammate Amy Gough. "It's a great start to hopefully a great ending to the season." Katie Uhlaender of the United States finished 12th in 1:56.15. Teammate Rebecca Sorensen was next in 1:56.20. Anja Huber of Germany, who won the women's season-opener, was in Germany rehabbing an ankle she injured while walking the Lake Placid track on Sunday. Rommel said the team was hopeful Huber could race again at next week's race in Cesana, Italy. "Even though we're competitors, we never wish any harm to come to any of the athletes," Pikus-Pace said. "She was in a really good position, so it's really sad to see her go. I think we'd all rather beat everybody when they're at their best. Hopefully, she'll be back and competing in no time."

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