Shea retires after failing to make World Cup team

Jimmy Shea, who won the gold medal in skeleton at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, announced his retirement after failing to make the four-man U.S. team for the upcoming World Cup season.

Shea, 37, finished well behind Eric Bernotas, Zach Lund, Caleb Smith and Kevin Ellis in a four-run race-off conducted over the past two weekends in Lake Placid and Calgary, Alberta. The team was announced Monday. Shea retired Sunday night.

Former World Cup champion Chris Soule just missed making the team but can be added throughout the season if any team member fails to have a top-12 finish on any track.

Shea, who joined his father and grandfather to make up the first family with three generations of Winter Olympians, began a steady slide soon after his stunning triumph in Salt Lake City. Nine months later, he underwent a six-hour operation to restore the
blood flow in his left leg and did not compete for a year. He returned to the ice in 2003-04 and finished eighth overall in World Cup before choosing not to compete in World Cup last season.

Shea's rise in skeleton was rapid. He caught the attention of the International Olympic Committee after his surprise victory at the 1999 Skeleton World Championships in Altenberg, Germany, the only American slider to accomplish that feat. When he returned home, he presented the trophy to Salt Lake City Organizing Committee president Mitt Romney, who didn't know the first thing about the sport but soon pushed to have it included in the 2002 Games.

A solid World Cup performance in December 2001 on Shea's home track at Mount Van Hoevenberg outside Lake Placid earned him a spot on the U.S. Olympic team and put a huge smile on his 91-year-old grandfather's face.

Jack Shea had won two speedskating gold medals at the 1932 Lake Placid Olympics, and Jim Shea Sr. competed in cross-country skiing in 1964 at Innsbruck.

Jack Shea died less than three weeks before the Salt Lake Olympics from injuries suffered in a car accident. Undeterred and with a picture of his grandfather tucked inside his helmet, Jimmy slid to the gold, rallying on the final two turns of his final run
for the victory.

The afterglow was sweet but tinged with bitterness. Shea said one of the reasons he passed up a chance to compete in World Cup last season was because of USOC policy that allots money to athletes who excel in the present.

While Shea was away, Bernotas and Lund emerged as the men to beat for a spot on the Olympic team.

Three-time national champion Katie Uhlaender will lead the U.S. women's squad. Joining her are Katie Koczynski and newcomer Lyndsie Peterson, who secured a spot when she won Sunday's final race of the team trials. Lea Ann Parsley, silver medalist at Salt Lake City, just missed making the team but can be added by the coaches throughout the season.

The final spot on the women's team was awarded to defending World Cup champion Noelle Pikus-Pace. Pikus-Pace, who is recovering from a compound fracture in her right leg, was added as a discretionary pick. She was injured when she was accidentally hit last Wednesday by a four-man bobsled on the track at Calgary Olympic Park.

Pikus-Pace, 22, is hoping to compete in the second half of the World Cup season and take a shot at Turin. Until she is able to return to her spot on the World Cup roster, the coaches have chosen defending Olympic gold medalist Tristan Gale to race in her place.