Tretiakov, Huber win World Cup skeleton races in Utah
PARK CITY, Utah (AP) -- John Daly wasn't making a fashion statement when he sported a pink mohawk during Thursday's skeleton World Cup event at Olympic Park.
He let his sliding send the message.
"I made a bet with my coach that I would dye it whatever color he did ... if I made the Olympics," Daly said of the wager he had with then-U.S. coach Martin Rettl that he'd make the 2010 Vancouver Games.
When Rettl, now coaching Austria's team, showed up for the World Cup races at the Whistler track two weeks ago sporting pink, Daly knew he had to follow suit.
"It's already fading," the American said. "I'm hoping it grows out pretty soon."
Daly made sure he didn't fade during Thursday's skeleton competition -- the third in the World Cup circuit this season.
Instead, he used a strong second run to place eighth overall, finishing with a combined time of 1 minute, 38.83 seconds. Russia's Alexander Tretiakov (1:38.48) won by edging Germany's Sandro Stielicke by 0.01 of a second, while Anja Huber captured the women's event for the second straight week.
"It's nice to know even though I did have a bad run in the first I didn't get worse," Daly said. "I got better, so it's a steppingstone. I'm getting better, moving forward."
Matthew Antoine finished ninth in 1:38.92 for the U.S. and Eric Bernotas was 16th in 1:39.53.
This is just Daly's second year on the World Cup tour.
"I'm definitely a little more conformable," he said. "I don't feel like a veteran just yet, but I'm starting to get used to the tour and the travel."
He also said new coach Tuffy Latour, who returned to the U.S. from Team Canada, is a calming influence.
"It's great," Daly said. "We're all young and I think the team as a whole is going to move up throughout the years."
Daly was particularly looking forward to the next race in Lake Placid.
"That's our home track, so I'm happy to go back," said the 25-year-old from Smithtown, N.Y. "We've had more runs there than anywhere else so hopefully that pays off."
Tretiakov, who won bronze at Vancouver, was seventh after the first run, but came back in the second to clock the fastest overall time -- 49.11 -- and earn gold.
Huber overcame a bad start in her first run to win in 1:40.62, beating Great Britain's Shelley Rudman by 0.18. Amy Gough of Canada took bronze in 1:41.02.
The men set the tone for close races in the morning.
"I'm really happy," said Tretiakov, who set the Park City push record during the 2007 World Cup season. "I like this track."
Stielicke shared the first-run lead with Great Britain's Kristan Bromley after both clocked a 49.17.
Daly, who was 13th overall in the World Cup standings entering Thursday, placed 13th in the opening run before finding a better position on the track for the second.
"It was a great run right from the start," Daly said. "Definitely was a faster push. I knew all three Americans could move up. We all kind of had tiny mistakes in the first run, but once we cleaned it up in the second run, we knew we all would have really good times."
Daly said he entered turn six a little early during the first run.
"It bumped me down and cost me a little bit of speed," he said. "You couldn't really see it, but I could definitely feel it in the sled."
Bernotas showed his disappointment after placing 14th in the first run, slamming his helmet against the railing before leaving the finish area.
"I was feeling exactly the same way; he just showed it a little more than me," Daly said. "It's a frustrating sport sometimes."
Huber ran into trouble on her first run when she sprinted too close to her sled during the push and stepped on it.
"It was hard, but I knew if I could do a better start in the second, I'd have a chance to medal or win," said the German, who responded with her fastest push ever at Park City (4.99).
Anne O'Shea was the top American woman, finishing 13th (1:42.22), one spot ahead of Park City's Kimber Gabryszak (1:42.27).
"I was a little (nervous) when a dozen people are standing at the start holding signs and chanting your name," said Gabryszak, who moved to Utah in 2002 and took up skeleton because of the adrenaline rush it provided.
Though she didn't meet her goal of a top-10 finish, she was satisfied as she beat her personal best (51.67) by more than half a second.
Next up is Lake Placid, where Huber took fourth in the 2009 World Championships.
"I know the track," Huber said. "It's hard. It's difficult, but everybody has to slide there. It will be an interesting race."