WOMEN’S SKELETON MEDALISTS AT THE 2022 WINTER OLYMPICS:
With Hannah Neise’s historic gold medal in women’s skeleton – her country’s maiden win in the event – Germany has now successfully swept the first two of three sliding sports contested at the 2022 Winter Olympics, scoring six straight gold medals across luge and skeleton.
The country’s 21-year-old Hannah Neise started behind the eight ball on Saturday evening, leaking 0.21 seconds from the top after the first two heats. But she kept her cool and laid down two aggressive, lightning-fast runs to claim victory over 31-year-old Australian Jackie Narracott by an eye-popping 0.62 seconds – forever in skeleton time.
Neise’s victory follows that of her 31-year-old compatriot Christopher Grotheer, who grabbed Germany’s first skeleton Olympic gold in the men’s competition just 24 hours earlier.
Germany wasn’t the only country to make history at the Games on Saturday. Narracott’s silver marks Australia’s first Olympic medal in skeleton, while Bos – the 2021-22 Skeleton World Cup overall winner – earned the Netherlands’ first Olympic medal in the sport. Bos leapt four spots and overcame a 0.39-second deficit to clinch bronze.
Racing first, Narracott threw caution to the wind and essentially set herself on fire to own a course record: 1:01.79.
Her sentiment wasn’t subtle: Go lightning fast, or go home.
Neise got the message loud and clear. She went for broke in the night’s second run, almost flipping over at the bottom of the winding, unforgiving track known as “The Flying Snow Dragon.” Reaching speeds of 128.93 kilometers an hour (over 80 mph), she blazed past the finish line with another course record: 1:01.44.
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Ultimately, Neise prevailed with nerves of steel and a near-perfect Heat 4. The competition’s final runs found more drama in a loose Narracott barely held the resurgent Kimberley Bos at bay: Numerous Heat 4 scrapes and slides threatened to blow the Australian out of medal contention, but she had established enough of a lead in her previous runs to keep the Dutch slider in third.
The rest of the field was forced to stick to the brutal strategy established at the start: speed, speed, speed, no matter the cost. Athletes exploded down the track, with varying degrees of success: Tina Hermann, who had started the day in third standing, laid down her two fastest heats of the Games.
Still, it wasn’t enough: Rough brushes throughout the course – particularly at the notoriously sharp Dragon’s tail – added precious hundredths of a second to her time. Hermann finished fourth, over a second away from the podium.
Capping off a brilliant career filled with world championship titles and 12 surgeries, Team USA’s five-time Olympian Katie Uhlaender upped her standing from eighth place at the midway point to sixth after four heats. This was her third top-ten finish at the Games.
Meanwhile, her compatriot Kelly Curtis – who at PyeongChang 2018 made history as the first Black skeleton athlete to compete for the United States at the Olympics – finished 21st after three heats.