Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Noelle Pikus-Pace finally has her Olympic moment as she earns silver in skeleton

By Amy Donaldson, Deseret News

Published: Fri, Feb. 14 4:25 p.m. MST

 Noelle Pikus-Pace of the United States celebrates with her brother Jared Pikus, left, husband, Janson Pace, far right, and children, Traycen, left, and Lacee, right, after she won the silver medal during the women's skeleton competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 14, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.

Noelle Pikus-Pace of the United States celebrates with her brother Jared Pikus, left, husband, Janson Pace, far right, and children, Traycen, left, and Lacee, right, after she won the silver medal during the women's skeleton competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 14, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.

(Michael Sohn, Associated Press)

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Eight years after she was a top-ranked medal favorite in skeleton, Noelle Pikus-Pace finally earned her spot on an Olympic podium.

“I never thought this could be real,” the Eagle Mountain mother of two said after winning a silver medal in Friday’s skeleton final at the Sanki Sliding Center. “I just put it behind me. … And now it’s just all come together into this moment. This is better than gold for me. I’m trying to take it in. I can’t. I can’t comprehend this moment.”

Her reward for a decade of resilience and perseverance was not gold. But somehow silver seemed the perfect color of medal for the athlete who’s always preached the beauty of searching for a silver lining regardless of the heartbreak.

“I know what trials are,” she said after finishing second (3:53.86) to Great Britain’s Lizzy Yarnold (3:52.89). “And I know we can overcome them. As hard as things are, we just always have to find that sunny side, we just always have to stay on the positive side and we’ll find ways to make it through.”

From a compound fracture suffered when a bobsled left the track and hit her during Olympic trials for the 2006 games to missing out on a medal in Vancouver by one-tenth of a second, Pikus-Pace has proved that finding a way over, around or just straight through adversity is simply what she does best.

In fact, she had a significant scare just a week before she stood on that podium, flower in hand blowing a kiss to the man who has loved her, encouraged her, even designed her sled.

“On Wednesday, I had a concussion and on Friday I was getting MRIs,” Pikus-Pace said at a post-competition press conference. “I was pretty out of it. I couldn’t see clearly, my vision was blurred. So for medical reasons I didn’t take those (six) runs.”

The concussion was apparently caused by the G-forces athletes endure as they navigate the twists and turns of the tracks. She said she blacked out and didn’t know what happened. After medical tests Friday and a few days off, Pikus-Pace said she returned to the track a week later feeling “confident.”

“I felt very good today, and I felt like I could do my best,” she said. “I just have a little bit of vertigo.”

Her husband, Janson, said they both wondered why this would happen to her now.

“It was just another thing,” he said, as his children played in the press room. “How can we get this far and have something else? Why something else? What’s the purpose? We thought it was gold. Could it have been, it’s possible. But we’re happy.”

Finally, after all of the twists and turns, near-misses and heartbreaks, Pikus-Pace had her moment.

When she crossed the finish line, she saw the scoring screen that announced she was in first place with only Yarnold’s final run remaining.

She jumped from the sled and into the stands.

“I didn’t know I had that high of a vertical,” she said laughing. “I didn’t know that’s what was coming. I just completely lost it once I saw that number one by my name. … My heart just filled up and the emotions overwhelmed me. I leaped over because the first people I wanted to see were my husband and kids.”

Pikus-Pace may not have enjoyed her unique journey that ended with Friday's silver medal were it not for another agonizing event in April 2012. Enjoying retirement, she had a miscarriage at 18 weeks. It was during that painful time that her husband asked if she thought she might have unfinished business on the skeleton track.

When Pikus-Pace decided to revive her Olympic dream, she did so with one condition: Her family would travel to every World Cup race with her.

It was the generosity of friends, family and sponsors that helped them fund their unique experience.

“Over these past two years, I truly could not ask for more,” she said. “It’s been a dream come true.”

While she described the balancing act that is her life, a reporter asked her what her Olympic journey would be like without her family along for the ride.

“It’s not the dream without them,” she said. “I can’t say it any other way. It’s not perfect without them.”

And she plans to repay their patience and kindness with the kind of commitment only supermom can offer.

“I absolutely, first and foremost, love being a mom,” she said beaming, “100 percent — I love being a mom, and that will always be my priority. I want to make sure my kids can do anything, that they can be anything, and that they can have dreams that I will be right there, by their sides cheering them along the way. I want to join PTA; I want to bake cookies; I want to plant a big garden. I want to be at home doing the things I love doing.”

Twitter: adonsports

EMAIL: adonaldson@deseretnews.com

Utah's Noelle Pikus-Pace talks about winning the silver medal

Related Stories
Recommended
1. FT
salt lake city, UT,
Feb. 14, 2014

Wow! How cool is that!! Congratulation to her and the whole family.

2. The Last Word
South Jordan, UT,
Feb. 14, 2014

Inspiring! Congrats to a great athlete, mother, and citizen. Go USA!

3. Tuffy Parker
Salem, UT,
Feb. 14, 2014

For me, this is by far the most inspiring story to come out of the 2014 Winter Olympics! How amazing is that for this to have been such a family affair? What an amazing example of overcoming adversity; what a credit to Utah and our values!

Way to go Noelle!!!

4. Norman Wright
Provo, UT,
Feb. 14, 2014

Way to go Noelle! I was sitting in my office at UVU today and just could not help stopping work for a few minutes to watch your final run. Your genuine happiness and excitement got me up and out of my chair to share your success with the rest of our team. We are all so happy for you!

5. rok
Boise, CA,
Feb. 14, 2014

a concussion from G forces? crazy.