And with that, the World Cup skeleton circuit had a race unlike any other in its history.
Geng Wenqiang gave China its first World Cup skeleton win on Friday — part of a historic three-way tie for the top spot. Geng, Britain’s Matt Weston and Germany’s Christopher Grotheer all finished two runs in 1 minute, 46.04 seconds.
There had never been a three-way tie for the win in any World Cup skeleton race since the sport was added to the circuit in 1986.
“It’s the best feeling,” Weston said.
Weston was Britain’s first World Cup men’s skeleton race winner since Kristian Bromley in January 2008. Grotheer is the two-time defending world champion, though this was only the second World Cup race win of his career. And Geng’s first win came in his 20th career World Cup start, plus ensured that he’ll be considered a medal favorite at the Beijing Olympics in February.
The Chinese have never been a major player in the sliding sports, which have traditionally been dominated by European and North American countries. Geng joined the World Cup circuit in 2017, with hopes of finding his stride in time for the 2022 Games.
For the Americans in the men’s skeleton race, it was the end of a wild week.
Austin Florian was 20th and John Daly finished 27th, capping a week where both tested positive for COVID-19 and weren’t sure if they would be allowed to compete. Florian was cleared to race on Thursday; Daly wasn’t cleared until 20 minutes before Friday morning’s race time.
They needed the race to accumulate points toward Olympic qualification. The U.S. will nominate its Olympic skeleton team in mid-January, and qualification is largely based on international point standings.
“It’s been a really stressful week,” USA Skeleton coach Tuffy Latour said. “We didn’t know if it had spread to anyone else on the team, and if or when Austin and John would be able to race. Austin was able to get one day of training, and John didn’t have any days of training this week. I’m glad they were able to race today, and that we’re able to move forward after a really hard week.”
In the women’s race later Friday, Russia’s Elena Nikitina got the win with a two-run time of 1:47.83. Kimberley Bos of the Netherlands was second in 1:48.03, and Italy’s Valentina Margaglio got her first World Cup individual medal by finishing third in 1:48.28.
Nikitina and Bos have been first and second, respectively, in both races so far this season.
There was another tie, too — but only for seventh. Megan Henry was the top U.S. finisher, sharing seventh place with Austria’s Janine Flock. Katie Uhlaender was ninth for the U.S., and Kelly Curtis took 14th for the Americans.
The next World Cup skeleton races are next weekend in Altenberg, Germany.