Katie Uhlaender makes fifth, likely final Olympics in skeleton
Katie Uhlaender is going to a fifth and likely final Olympics in skeleton, clinching a spot as the highest-ranked American woman this season.
She’s joined by first-time Olympians Kelly Curtis and Andrew Blaser on the smallest U.S. Olympic skeleton team since the sport returned to the Olympic program in 2002.
Uhlaender, a 37-year-old with a best Olympic finish of fourth, will tie the record for Winter Olympic appearances by a U.S. woman. She will likely be the oldest female Olympian on the entire U.S. team in Beijing, if neither Lolo Jones nor Lauren Gibbs makes it in bobsled.
She will be the oldest U.S. Olympic female skeleton slider ever, breaking the record held by Lea Ann Parsley, a silver medalist in 2002 in women’s skeleton’s debut.
Snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis and curler John Shuster previously qualified for their fifth Olympics. Shaun White is also likely to be named to his fifth Olympic team.
Uhlaender, the 2012 World champion and two-time World Cup season champ, didn’t compete in the season after placing 13th at the 2018 Olympics. She returned in 2019-20 and did lower-level races before her first World Cup in nearly three years in January 2021.
Her best finish in 11 World Cup races over the last 13 months: a pair of fifths.
The Olympic medal favorites include World Cup season champion Kimberley Bos of the Netherlands, Austrian Janine Flock, German Tina Hermann and Russian Yelena Nikitina. In a twist Friday, 31-year-old Australian Jackie Narracott beat all of them in the last World Cup before the Olympics. Narracott’s best prior World Cup finish was seventh.
Great Britain’s Lizzy Yarnold, who won the last two Olympic titles, retired in 2018.
In 2014, Uhlaender finished fourth at the Olympics, .04 of a second behind Nikitina for bronze. Nikitina was later stripped of her medal in 2017 as part of the Russian doping scheme during the Sochi Games, but was reinstated two months later by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, citing insufficient evidence.
Uhlaender plans to retire from competition after Beijing and pursue a bachelor’s degree.
Curtis, a 32-year-old former heptathlete who first converted to bobsled, was second in the U.S. rankings, edging Megan Henry for the last Olympic women’s spot. Curtis completed basic training for the U.S. Air Force in August 2020.
Blaser, a 32-year-old former decathlete at the University of Idaho, was the top-ranked American man this season -- 28th in the world -- despite being passed over for World Cups to start the campaign in favor of the more accomplished John Daly and Austin Florian. It’s the first time the U.S. will not have multiple male skeleton sliders at the Olympics.
Latvian Martins Dukurs won his 11th World Cup season title. At 37, he’s still seeking a first Olympic gold after silvers in 2010 and 2014 and a fourth-place finish in 2018. A slider from the host nation won the last three golds, boosted by more experience on the Olympic track.
China’s top slider, Geng Wenqiang, is 12th in this season’s standings (with one three-way-tie for a victory), one spot below 2018 Olympic champ Yun Sungbin.
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