- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 12, 2014

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) - One of the best rivalries this season on the international sliding circuits has been the back and forth in women’s skeleton between Noelle Pikus-Pace and Lizzy Yarnold.

Each has four wins so far this winter.

Odds are, one of them will get one heck of a tiebreaker at the Sochi Olympics.

Yarnold will be looking to give Britain its second straight Olympic gold medal in women’s skeleton, where the competition starts Thursday with two runs and ends with two more on Friday. Pikus-Pace - who would have been the Olympic favorite in 2006 before a bobsled, of all things, shattered her leg - is adamant that this competition is the last of her career.

So will it be the upstart, or the veteran?

Or, quite possibly, anyone else?

There are contenders and in the Olympics anything can happen, but it would be a surprise if either Pikus-Pace or Yarnold wasn’t the one standing atop the podium after the final run on Friday.

Here’s five things to know about the competition:

FLAT LUCK: Amy Williams was the gold medalist for Britain in 2010 before retiring, and she’s at the Sochi Olympics working as a commentator for BBC. It also gives her a chance to keep in touch with her tenant. Yarnold rents an apartment from Williams, so there must be some sort of magic in that place, given how it tends to be the home of Olympic gold hopefuls.

KATIE’S TIME: Welcome to the start of Uhlaender’s season, sort of. Uhlaender’s World Cup season was basically a wash this winter after a concussion in Lake Placid back in October derailed her training and her plans to challenge for medals on that circuit. So instead, she and the U.S. coaches formed a plan where she would essentially ease back and try to peak at the Olympics. Some of her training times this week suggest that the plan might very well work.

FRIENDLY RIVALRY: Pikus-Pace and Yarnold have been watching how the other does all season, as anyone would expect. One neat thing about the rivalry is that it hasn’t turned acrimonious. Regardless of outcome, Pikus-Pace and Yarnold could usually be seen after every race sharing a quick embrace and word of congratulations.

CONTENDERS: Never forget the Germans in any sliding race, though Anja Huber and Marion Thees have simply not been able to find speed this winter. Russia’s Maria Orlova should contend on her home track. And want a fun long shot? Australia’s Michelle Steele. It wouldn’t shock anyone on the circuit if she stuck around the lead.

BRITISH RUN: Britain has medaled in every women’s Olympic skeleton race since it returned to the program in 2002. The U.S. won gold and silver that year, and nothing since. Given the confidence that the Brits have, they might have set themselves up as the team to beat - but that also means everyone in the field will be gunning for them, particularly since this is the one race every four years that more people than those in the niche-sport world will notice.


Follow Tim Reynolds on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/ByTimReynolds

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