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SOCHI, Russia -- Two American women with inspiring stories are both in medal contention halfway through the women's skeleton competition, setting up the possibility of an emotional finish Friday.
Noelle Pikus-Pace, 31, who retired after the Vancouver Olympics but returned in 2012 with the goal of winning her first Olympic medal, is in second place after her first two runs Thursday, .44 seconds behind Great Britain's Lizzy Yarnold.
Katie Uhlaender, who has battled injuries, concussions, depression and the death of her father, former Major Leaguer Ted Uhlaender, finds herself in fourth place after two runs, just .14 seconds from the podium.
"That would be a dream come true if Katie and I could both be up on that podium together, to have two U.S. flags flying and waving in the wind," Pikus-Pace said. "That would be absolutely incredible."
Pikus-Pace began the competition with an opening run of 58.68 seconds, breaking Uhlaender's year-old course record. That mark was short-lived, though, as Yarnold followed it up with a 58.43. Pikus-Pace corrected a few mistakes to turn in a second run of 58.65, solidifying her second-place standing.
Pikus-Pace, who finished fourth in 2010 in Vancouver, has sparked questions this week by taking only two of the available six official training runs. She is reportedly suffering from back issues.
"I'm just trying to take it a day at a time," Pikus-Pace said. "It's pretty hard when I only had a few runs here, but I felt well coming into the race today, although my first run was pretty sloppy to say the least. I feel happy with how I was able to come back in the second run and put it down. I know what I need to change tomorrow, and I'll be ready to give my best."
One of the final racers in the field, Uhlaender turned in a time of 58.83 in her first run, followed by a 58.75, the third-fastest time of the second heat.
"I'm having mixed feelings," Uhlaender said. "I was really happy with my first run even though I made some mistakes at the top that cost me quite a bit of speed, but the second run, I had a huge mistake at the bottom that cost me from pulling ahead."