KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia - Matt Antoine capped a storybook comeback with a bronze medal in Saturday's skeleton final.
The Wisconsin native was almost flawless in his final runs, and the man who missed the 2010 Olympics was having a little trouble comprehending his success.
"It's unbelievable," Antoine said. "It's going to take some time to process it for sure, but it's the greatest moment of my life without a doubt. I've been preparing for this moment, but it's still just unreal right now."
With the top two sliders out of reach, the race on Saturday was for the bronze medal. It was decided in the fourth and final heat. USA's John Daly of Smithtown, N.Y., went first and just before he jumped on the sled, it jumped out of the start groove, forcing him to scramble. As he loaded the sled, it skidded and bumped into a wall, effectively ending his chances to medal. He fell from third to 15th.
He was happy for his teammate's success, but devastated that he'd dedicated four years to a dream that ended with an unfortunate conclusion.
"I know I wouldn't be as good as I am without Kyle (Tress) and Matt," Daly said. "If I had to pick anyone else to take my medal position, I'd pick one of those guys. It's tears of sadness but it's also tears of joy, because a guy I grew up with, a guy I slid with my entire career, my whole life, won a medal. I'm proud of him.
"The toughest part was, even though my family's proud, I couldn't even look at them at the bottom. It was hard for me, because I kind of just wanted to say hi to them. I knew they were proud of me, but I couldn't even look up because it was too much at the time, and I'm kind of still struggling right now. It hasn't truly hit me yet how much I lost."
Antoine and Daly were third and fourth, respectively, after the third heat, separated by just 0.04 seconds, making the race for bronze between the two best friends. Daly and Antoine have been in this position before, having battled one another in points for a spot on the 2010 Olympic team. It was Daly who earned an Olympic berth after winning six consecutive races on the Intercontinental and America's Cup circuits.
While Antoine was heartbroken to miss the 2010 Olympics, he also dedicated another four years to the sport with the goal of medaling here in Sochi. Despite a few bumps along the way, including knee surgery before the 2012-13 season, Antoine emerged as one of few athletes in the world that could challenge tour de force Martins Dukurs of Latvia.
"I went for it, and I don't regret going for it," Daly said. "I do wish I had one more chance. The sole blame was on myself. There's no one else to blame here but me. I know I left it all there, but I really do wish for the first time in my career that I had a second chance, and I didn't have to wait four more years."
Page 2 of 2 - Russian Alexander Tretiakov won gold on his home track with a time of 3:44.29, while Dukurs finished with silver, earning a combined time of 3:45.10.
TEAM USA SKI JUMPERS COME UP SHORT: All three of the U.S. men's ski jumpers failed to advance to the final round of the individual large hill ski jumping competition Saturday night at RusSki Gorki Ski Jumping Center.
Nick Fairall (Andover, N.H.) was the top American finisher, placing 35th with his score of 108.3. Nick Alexander (Lebanon, N.H.) scored an 87.0 for 48th place, and Anders Johnson (Park City) was disqualified.%3Cimg%20src%3D%22http%3A//beacon.deseretconnect.com/beacon.gif%3Fcid%3D145922%26pid%3D46%22%20/%3E