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Canada's Eric Neilson celebrates a fifth place finish during men's World Cup skeleton action in Calgary, Alta., Friday, November 29, 2013. (LARRY MACDOUGAL/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Canada's Eric Neilson celebrates a fifth place finish during men's World Cup skeleton action in Calgary, Alta., Friday, November 29, 2013. (LARRY MACDOUGAL/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Canada’s Neilson, Reid lock up Olympic spots at skeleton World Cup Add to ...

Canadian women’s skeleton racer Sarah Reid shrugged her shoulders at the World Cup finish line Friday after just missing out on a chance to lock up a spot for the Sochi Games.

About an hour later, Reid was sporting an Olympic-sized grin.

The winner had been disqualified after the race due to a sled handle violation. That moved everyone up one position and put Reid into sixth place, which allowed her to book her ticket to Sochi.

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“It’s crazy,” Reid said. “I feel like it hasn’t really sunk in yet.”

American Noelle Pikus-Pace finished first in the women’s race in one minute 54.88 seconds but her disqualification gave the gold to Britain’s Elizabeth Yarnold, who finished 0.16 seconds behind. Russia’s Elena Nikitina earned silver in 1:55.28 and Michelle Steele of Australia took bronze in 1:55.30.

Eric Neilson of Kelowna, B.C., also booked his Olympic ticket with a fifth-place result in the men’s race at Canada Olympic Park. Neilson also said the Sochi news hasn’t sunk in.

“Not even close,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t know if I’ll actually believe it until the coaches say, ‘This is our Olympic team. Eric Neilson you’re on it — go.“’

There will be two more World Cup events before the Olympic skeleton roster is officially unveiled Dec. 18. Racers need four top-six finishes over two seasons to qualify for the Sochi Games, but at least one has to come in the current campaign.

Bobsledders Jesse Lumsden and Chris Spring reached the podium later in the evening, winning bronze in the two-man event.

“I think we both agree we’re happy, we’re not satisfied,” Lumsden said. “My goal as a pusher is to help Chris have top-three starts every race all year long. So this was a great way to set the tone.”

Lumsden, from Burlington, Ont., and Spring, from Calgary, were third in 1:49.42. Americans Steven Holcomb and Steve Langton won gold in 1:49.22, just 0.16 seconds ahead of Switzerland’s Beat Hefti and Alex Baumann.

In the men’s skeleton, Martin Dukurs of Latvia set a track record of 55.31 seconds on his second run and earned the men’s gold with a two-run time of 1:51.39.

Dukurs was well ahead of Alexander Tretiakov of Russia, who finished in 1:52.14. Britain’s Dominic Edward Parsons won bronze in 1:52.74.

Neilson tied his career-best finish at a World Cup. He finished fourth at the world championships last season.

Dukurs trimmed over four-10ths of a second off the previous track record (55.72) set by Canada’s Jeff Pain in February 2005. The Latvian won the overall World Cup title last season.

The track push record also fell Friday.

Tretiakov’s first start time of 4.75 seconds was a shade better than his previous best of 4.76 from November 2005. The Russian improved his mark again with a 4.71 in the second run.

Calgary-based racers Dave Greszczyszyn and John Fairbairn also finished in the top 10. Greszczyszyn was sixth in his World Cup debut in 1:53.06 and Fairbairn was ninth in 1:53.17.

In the women’s race, officials ruled that Pikus-Pace violated Rule 14.5 by racing with additional handles on her sled. Heinz Thoma, a FIBT World Cup co-ordinator, said another team first noticed the violation and pointed it out to an official.

“They look at each other carefully,” Thoma said. “We’re on the way to (the) Olympics.”

The FIBT is the sanctioning body for bobsled and skeleton. The sled was inspected and the official results were released about an hour after the race finish.

Thomas said about one-third of the sleds are usually inspected after a race, adding that violations occur from time to time. He couldn’t recall the last time a violation affected a World Cup race winner.

Pikus-Pace later told The Associated Press that the British team complained about an extra piece of tape that was wrapped around the handle.

The sled — and the tape — had both been approved for competition earlier in the week, Pikus-Pace said, and U.S. officials were appealing the disqualification.

“Clearly, clearly, I should not have been disqualified,” Pikus-Pace told the AP in a phone interview. “I’m so frustrated. People get away with whatever and I get disqualified for a piece of tape? A piece of tape that they said was OK? It has no competitive advantage whatsoever.”

Rule 14.5 states that the saddle handles must be mounted on the construction frame, and that “no additional handles, howsoever they are constructed, are permitted on the saddle.”

A race official said later in the evening that the appeal would not be entertained and that the decision was final.

Reid, who won bronze at the 2013 world championship, was just over a half-second off the lead with a time of 1:55.56. Calgary’s Robynne Thompson was eighth and Cassie Hawrysh of Brandon, Man., was 10th.

Mellisa Hollingsworth of Eckville, Alta., and 2010 Olympic champion Jon Montgomery of Russell, Man., will open the season on the Intercontinental Cup circuit. Athletes can qualify for Sochi while competing on that circuit or at the World Cup level.

Lyndon Rush of Humboldt, Sask., and Calgary’s Lascelles Brown were eighth in the two-man bobsled. Justin Kripps of Summerland, B.C., and Bryan Barnett of Calgary were 12th.

The four-man bobsled and women’s bobsled events were set for Saturday.

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With files from The Associated Press.

 

 

 

 

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