ST. MORITZ, Switzerland (AP) — Noelle Pikus-Pace's comeback season has the American slider pointed toward the medal stand at the women's skeleton world championships.
Britain's Shelley Rudman built a commanding lead Thursday at the midway point of the competition, leading Pikus-Pace by a full second after the first two runs down the historic track in St. Moritz. Rudman had the fastest two runs of the day, posting a combined time of 2 minutes, 19.03 seconds.
Pikus-Pace's time was 2:20.03, and Britain's Elizabeth Yarnold is another 0.15 seconds back in third, the same spot she took at last season's world championships in Lake Placid, N.Y.
"I feel good about where I'm sitting and hopefully I can come back (Friday) with two better runs," Pikus-Pace said. "I made some mistakes that I don't usually make and I'm not very happy with today's runs. I felt sluggish and I just wasn't my best, and I feel like there's more in the bag."
For Pikus-Pace to win her second world title, she'll likely need Rudman to make a big mistake. And if anyone knows how difficult it is to get caught in St. Moritz, it's Pikus-Pace. She had the fastest time in all four runs on that track on the way to winning the world championship in 2007 — though Rudman insisted Thursday that the competition wasn't already decided.
"I can always get better," said Rudman, who has only one top-three finish on the World Cup circuit this season, a win at Winterberg, Germany.
Pikus-Pace, of Eagle Mountain, Utah, returned to sliding this season following a two-year retirement.
She entered the world championships as possibly the hottest slider on the circuit of late, with a win at the World Cup stop in Konigssee, Germany, on Jan. 11, a second-place showing in Igls, Austria, on Jan. 25, and then a blistering run at St. Moritz last weekend to help the U.S. win the team world championship — combining men's skeleton, women's skeleton, men's bobsled and women's bobsled.
Australia's Michelle Steele (2:20.40), Canada's Mellisa Hollingsworth (2:20.44) and Canada's Sarah Reid (2:20.50) round out the top six. Defending world champion Katie Uhlaender of the U.S. is in seventh, 1.55 seconds off the lead.
Rudman has finished fourth at each of the past two world championships. The competition concludes Friday.
"Should be exciting," Pikus-Pace said.