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Aussies finish strong on last day of Women's Skeleton

15 February 2014

SKELETON: It was a night of consistency for Australia’s two women Skeleton competitors, Michelle Steele and Lucy Chaffer, in their last two runs at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on Friday.

Steele and Chaffer both improved their times on each run, with Steele clocking a total of three minutes, 56.28 seconds, and Chaffer with three minutes, 56.64 seconds over the four runs.

From the moment Great Britain’s Lizzy Yarnold stepped on the track, she was unstoppable, breaking the track record in her first run of the night. 

With a total combined time for her four runs of 3 minutes, 52.89 seconds, Yarnold took home gold.

Noelle Pikus-Pace from the United States claimed silver, 0.97 seconds off the leader, and in the bronze position was Russian Elena Nikitina, 1.41 seconds behind Yarnold.

Steele finished 12th, 3.39 seconds off Yarnold and Chaffer in 17th place, a further 0.36 behind Steele.

The two teammates said the last four years had been about hard work to get to Sochi after they both missed selection for Vancouver in 2010.

“I really appreciate it," Steele said. "I qualified for Torino after 18 months in the sport, I was very proud and appreciative then, but to come back eight years later and to have worked for eight years to get to this point, it’s another appreciation."

Steele had hopes of a top 10 finish at Sanki Sliding Centre, but said the depth of competition made it hard.

“I’m really pleased with my performance. I’m really happy with my pushes and my sliding. I’m super happy, I couldn’t wish for anymore over four runs.”

“It was just wanting to finish higher in the ranks, but I felt like I put it together so I’m proud of myself.”

A groundbreaker in the sport, 27-year-old Steele was the first Australian to win a World Cup Skeleton medal, with a silver in Nagano in 2007. Her 2006 appearance in Torino was also the first time an Aussie woman had competed in a Winter Olympics.

For the Brisbane based athlete, the Olympics were a learning experience.

“We race regularly on the World Cup circuit so you’re always racing and learning. But the Olympics is a different experience. It’s a great thing to be able to have as athlete,” she said.

Steele hinted retirement could be on the cards.

“This could be my last two slides. I’ve been in the sport for ten years, I’ll see.”

“I’m going to spend some time with my husband. He’s come out from Australia, he’s flown over here on his own to support me so we’ll go and watch some events and cheer on some Aussies together.

“I couldn’t have any complaints.”

After sitting last on the leaderboard following her first run in her debut Olympics, Chaffer was pleased by her jump in the placings, going from 20th to 17th.

“I’m satisfied to a certain extent," she said. "I am satisfied with the last three runs. I’m not satisfied with the first one, but really happy,” she said. 

“If I didn’t have to count my first run then I think I’d be standing in a good position, but the way the sliding works you have to have all four. It’s the way it is.  I can walk away being pretty happy with what I put down in the last three runs.”

The 30-year-old said she doesn't know what the future holds.

“I’m going to enjoy the rest of the Olympics. Go home, enjoy the sunshine, see my family... the ones that aren’t here, and reassess things. So what my sliding future holds I don’t know, I don’t know what my career future holds. We’ll have to see. We’ll go from there.”

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