Canadian Skeleton Athletes Eric Neilson and Sarah Reid Punch Olympic Tickets at World Cup Opener in Calgary

—Dave Greszczyszyn places sixth in first World Cup race—


CALGARY—Canadian skeleton athletes Eric Neilson and Sarah Reid are heading to their first Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

Neilson, of Kelowna, B.C., locked up his Olympic spot after earning his final top-six qualifier when he matched his career-best fifth-place finish on the World Cup at the season-opener in Calgary.

The 32-year-old Neilson clocked a two-run time of one minute, 52.97 seconds (1:52.97).

“This is a huge relief for me to get this off my back and I’m extremely happy,” said Neilson, who also had a fourth-place finish at the 2013 World Championships. “My first run was a little rough, but I’m pretty happy with things.”

Calgary’s Sarah Reid also secured her ticket to Russia with a sixth-place finish in the women’s race after stopping the clock at 1:55.56.

“It’s crazy. I would always talk about if I go, but now I know it is confirmed and I can focus completely on preparing for Sochi,” said Reid. “To find out that I’m in means that I have taken that last big step I needed to take to really start the road to Sochi. Now it is time to really work.”

Neilson, who is a Mailman during the offseason, has delivered the goods over the last two years while knocking on the door of the international podium with a handful of fifth and sixth-place finishes on tracks around the world.

Latvia’s Martins Dukurs continued his dominance of the World Cup while setting a new track record in his second run at 55.31 to secure a two-run golden time of 1:51.39. Dukurs was joined on the podium by Russia’s Alexander Tretiakov in second spot at 1:52.14. Dominic Edward Parsons, of Great Britain, slid to the bronze-medal position on the men’s podium after clocking-in at 1:52.74.

Canadian rookie Dave Greszczyszyn put down a solid outing in his first career World Cup. The Brampton, Ontario native slid to a sixth-place finish with a two-run time of 1:53.06. Calgary’s John Fairbairn slid his way into ninth spot with a time of 1:53.17.

“Of course I am happy with this result, but I did want more and know I can do more,” said the 34-year-old Greszczyszyn, who earned one Olympic qualifier with his solid result. “I like flying under the radar. I have never felt any pressure in my career. I have worked my butt off to get here, and my goal is to have fun and enjoy it. We’ll see what happens.”

Meanwhile, Sarah Reid bumped into sixth place after the original race winner, American Noelle Pikus-Pace, was disqualified for using an illegal sled. Reid had a breakthrough season one year ago where she captured five international medals including her first World Cup victory, and a bronze medal at the World Championships.

“It is a crazy night. I was quite disappointed with my first run. Eighth is not where I envisioned myself, but I had two good pushes and a good second run,” said Reid. “It is nice to know I can now focus on what I need to do to be fully prepared for the Olympics.”

After the Pikus-Pace disqualification, Great Britain’s Elizabeth Yarnold grabbed the first gold medal of the season with a time of 1:55.04. Russia’s Elena Nikitina was second at 1:55.28, and Australia’s Michelle Steele snagged the bronze at 1:55.30.

Calgary’s Robynne Thompson finished eighth in her first career World Cup with a combined time of 1:55.95. Cassie Hawrysh, of Brandon, Man., was 10th (1:56.33).

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Complete Results:

Top-Five Men’s Skeleton Results:

1. Martins Dukurs, LAT, 1:51.39; 2. Alexander Tretiakov, RUS, 1:52.14; 3. Dominic Edwards Parsons, GBR, 1:52.74; 4. Tomass Dukurs, LAT, 1:52.81; 5. Eric Neilson, Kelowna, B.C., CAN, 1:52.97.

Other Canadian Results:

6. Dave Greszczyszyn, Brampton, Ont., 1:53.06; 9. John Fairbairn, Calgary, 1:53.17


Top-Five Women’s Skeleton Results:

1. Elizabeth Yarnold, GBR, 1:55.04; 2. Elena Nikitina, RUS, 1:55.28; 3. Michelle Steele, AUS, 1:55.30; 4. Shelley Rudman, GBR, 1:55.43; 5. Anja Huber, GER, 1:55.47

Other Canadian Results:

6. Sarah Reid, Calgary, 1:55.56; 8. Robynne Thompson, Calgary, 1:55.95; 10. Cassie Hawrysh, Brandon, Man., 1:56.33