Australian officials protested today's women's skeleton results, arguing that the Russians had an unfair advantage after one of their sliders did much better than anyone expected, according to the Associated Press. Their protest was denied, but they might be on to something — Elena Nikitina is in third place after two heats, though she was only ranked 13th at this year's World Cup. Obviously there's some home field advantage going on. As the AP pointed out, though, she's "benefitted from who-knows-how-many runs down the Sochi track, even skipping the final race on tour this winter to get more training time in before the Olympics." According to Australia's News Limited news service:
Officials are upset that Russian athletes are being given exclusive access to a training facility within the Sanki Olympic Sliding Centre.
“The AOC believed it provided a distinct and unfair advantage to the Russian athletes who had access to the facility and a disadvantage to Australia and all other competitors,’’ a statement issued by the AOC said.
But other than that brewing scandal, skeleton should be a lot like luge, but with better medal odds and better hair. In skeleton, sliders get a running start with their sleds and jump on head first to go down the track. It's similar to luge, but while Erin Hamlin's bronze medal was a shock, America's Noelle Pikus-Pace is currently in second place after two of four heats, and Kate Uhlaender is in fourth. For the men, Matt Antoine could get the bronze behind Martins (five time World Cup winner) and Tomass Dukurs of Latvia. John Daly probably isn't going to medal, but he has the best hair:
Great hair day! It should be illegal to cover my hair with a helmet. Off to practice. #TeamUSA— John Daly (@JohnDalyUSA) February 11, 2014
"There's always going to be three hair products, no matter what," Daly told ABC. "Now, if I wash it, there's going to be a leave-in conditioner as well, so that's four. We're working with a pomade, a paste and a hardening gel." Kyle Tress, the third member of the men's skeleton team and a software designer during the off-season, is also a long shot for a medal. Unfortunately, his hair game's not too strong either:
It's already been established that skeleton has the coolest helmets. Kate Uhlaender, currently in fourth place, has the coolest of the cool, and bright red hair that's also pretty punk. After letting her twitter followers pick what design she would wear leading into the races, she settled on an American eagle.
Elizabeth "Lizzy" Yarnold from the U.K. — who's currently in first and a favorite for the gold tomorrow — told The Telegraph that she likes to knit and watch Downton Abbey to relax. And while Beyonce is the artist of choice for U.S. sliders, Yarnold is a fan of Coldplay:
“Before the first run, it’s lots of grime music, so really heavy beat stuff, which keeps me going, skipping in time in the warm-up – Wiley, Giggs, Dizzee Rascal. Wiley’s following me on Twitter. I don’t know if he’s a winter sports fan.
“In the middle, between runs, it’s usually Johnny Flynn or Coldplay."
America's best bet for beating Yarnold is Pikus-Pace, the 31-year-old who un-retired to compete for a spot this year. It's possible that the spirit of St. Valentine will push her over the edge — her husband built the sled she races on, and quit his job to travel with her on the race circuit.