Latvia’s Dukurs wins again in World Cup skeleton opener

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (AP) Martins Dukurs has won everything there is in men’s skeleton, except an Olympic gold medal. And the Latvian has already established himself as the one to catch in that regard this season.

He started the World Cup season Friday with yet another victory, the 49th of his career. This is the seventh time in the last nine seasons Dukurs has opened the year with a victory. He grabbed the early lead in the points standings as he pursues a ninth consecutive World Cup overall title.

And afterward, he said something that might have left his competition even more chilled than the sub-zero wind chill did at Mount Van Hoevenberg.

”The target was not to be the best here, but obviously, I was trying really hard,” Dukurs said. ”Still, I have some things to figure out.”

If he has some things to still figure out, the rest of the world is in trouble.

Dukurs had the fastest time in each of the two heats, winning in 1 minute, 47.54 seconds. Yun Sungbin of South Korea finished in 1:47.65 to win the silver, and Russia’s Alexander Tretiakov was third in 1:47.71.

Geng Wenqiang became the first Chinese man to compete in a World Cup skeleton race, finishing seventh.

Since Dukurs got his first World Cup gold medal in 2008, the rest of the world has gotten only 26 – barely half his total. Dukurs has medaled in 67 of his last 74 international races.

”Martins is the best,” U.S. slider Greg West said. ”He’s incredibly good.”

Dukurs made it look easy. The Americans had all sorts of trouble on their home track in the season-opener.

West’s helmet fogged up on his second run, leaving him basically unable to see anything. John Daly, back full time on the World Cup circuit following a nearly three-year retirement after the Sochi Games, was lamenting everything about his two runs. So was Matt Antoine, the Olympic bronze medalist from Sochi who arrived at the frosty track Friday thinking he could beat everybody.

Antoine finished eighth, and was by far the top American. Daly was 17th, West 19th.

”Weather, sled-setup, the athlete also,” Daly said when running down the list of things he blamed for Friday. ”I’d love to point a finger at somebody else but it still lies on me at the end. Go back to the drawing board, figure it out. It’s a long season so I think we will. Hopefully.”

Dukurs won silver medals at each of the last two Olympics. Tretiakov won gold in Sochi but has been implicated in the investigation of Russia’s state-sponsored doping program at those Olympics, meaning he could still be disqualified – and that would see Dukurs promoted to the gold.

If Dukurs gets his way, he’d prefer to win gold on the ice in Pyeongchang.

”Of course, that’s the main target,” he said. ”But that’s really far away. This was just the first World Cup.”

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