Updated Jan. 14 and Feb. 4
Yes, it’s the sliding sport in which athletes do what American football players should not — lead with their heads.
The men’s World Cup circuit has had a distinct elite group. Only six men’s sliders finished on the podium in 2012-13 World Cup races — the Dukurs brothers, Alexander Kröckel, Alexander Tretiakov, and Christopher Grotheer. The latter only popped up once. But now the USA’s Matt Antoine is pushing into that tier.
The women’s competition is a bit more wide-open — 10 sliders had podium finishes in 2012-13.
The Olympics often lend themselves to surprises, anyway.
Downhill we go …
Gold: Martins Dukurs (Latvia)
Silver: Alexander Tretiakov (Russia)
Bronze: Tomass Dukurs (Latvia)
Also considered: Matt Antoine (USA), Alexander Kröckel (Germany), Frank Rommel (Germany)
World Cup 2013-14 top 8: M. Dukurs, T. Dukurs, Antoine, Tretiakov, Rommel, Kröckel, Sergey Chudinov (Russia), John Fairbairn (Canada)
World Cup 2012-13 top 8: M. Dukurs, T. Dukurs, Kröckel, Tretiakov, Rommel, Eric Neilson (Canada), Kristan Bromley (Britain), Christopher Grotheer (Germany)
2013 World Championship top 8: Tretiakov, M. Dukurs, Chudinov, Neilson, Rommel, John Daly (USA), Jon Montgomery (Canada), T. Dukurs
2010 Olympic medalists: Montgomery, M. Dukurs, Tretiakov
Gold: Noelle Pikus-Pace (USA)
Silver: Elizabeth Yarnold (Britain)
Bronze: Shelley Rudman (Britain)
Also considered: Anja Huber (Germany), Sarah Reid (Canada), Marion Thees (Germany), Katie Uhlaender (USA)
World Cup 2013-14 top 8: Yarnold, Pikus-Pace, Rudman, Janine Flock (Austria), Huber, Thees, Marina Gilardoni (Switzerland), Sophie Griebel (Germany)
World Cup 2012-13 top 8: Thees, Huber, Uhlaender, Yarnold, Reid, Mellisa Hollingsworth (Canada), Rudman, Cassie Hawrysh (Canada)
2013 World Championship top 8: Rudman, Pikus-Pace, Reid, Yarnold, Hollingsworth, Michelle Steele (Australia), Uhlaender, Thees
2010 Olympic medalists: Amy Williams (Britain), Kerstin Szymkowiak (Germany), Huber
Matt Antoine (USA): Moving into contention with some World Cup success, including an outright win in Lake Placid. (Yes, someone other than Dukurs, Rommel and Tretiakov won a race.)
Kristan Bromley (Britain): Earned a PhD with his research project, “Factors Affecting the Performance of Skeleton Bobsled.” Also the 2008 world champion and the 2004 and 2008 World Cup champion. Still competing past age 40. Engaged to women’s star Shelley Rudman, with whom he has a child.
Sergey Chudinov (Russia): Third place in 2013 World Championship was a bit of a surprise, though he had a World Cup win in 2010-11 on his way to fourth overall.
Martins Dukurs (Latvia): Four straight World Cups, 2011 and 2012 World Championship wins, 2010 Olympic silver medal, 2013 World Championship silver, won all but one race in the 2013 World Cup season and all but one the season before that. We get it. He’s good.
Tomass Dukurs (Latvia): Martins’ older brother had four podium finishes in 2013 to finish second overall. Third overall in 2012.
Alexander Kröckel (Germany): Youngster was third overall in 2013, up from fifth in 2012.
Jon Montgomery (Canada): Home-ice advantage certainly helped in the 2010 Olympics, where he beat the great Martins Dukurs by 0.07 seconds, but he has solid results elsewhere. Not recently, though — he won the 2011 season opener in Whistler and hasn’t been close since. Left off initial Canadian roster for Sochi.
Frank Rommel (Germany): The only person other than Martin Dukurs to win a World Cup race in 2012-13 season, though an early disqualification dropped him to fifth overall. Also the only person other than Dukurs to win a race in 2011-12 season, when he finished second overall. Third in 2011 World Championship.
Ben Sandford (New Zealand): An interesting wild card with a couple of podium finishes, including third in the 2012 World Championships.
Alexander Tretiakov (Russia); Bronze medalist in 2010 climbed to silver in the 2011 World Championships and took the 2013 world title. Also won the World Cup title in 2009. Won a World Cup race in Park City in December 2013.
Mellisa Hollingsworth (Canada): Third overall in 2011 season. Second in 2012 World Championships. Only one podium in 2013 season. Long competition history — two-time World Cup champion, bronze in 2006 Olympics, disappointed to take fifth in 2010 on home ice with rough final run.
Anja Huber (Germany): 2008 world champion and 2011 World Cup champion. Had no wins in 2013 season but still finished second overall.
Noelle Pikus-Pace (USA): Eased back into competition in 2012-13 and ended season with four straight podiums, including a win at Sochi. Won the first three World Cup races of 2013-14. Sort of. She was DQd from the first one.
Sarah Reid (Canada): One win, two runner-up finishes to take fifth overall in 2013. Also third in 2013 World Championships.
Shelley Rudman (Britain): 2006 Olympic silver medalist took time off to have a baby (with fiance Kristan Bromley of the British men’s team), then was the overall runner-up in three straight World Cup seasons before winning it in 2012. One win in erratic 2013 season, but she won the World Championship. Flag bearer at 2010 opening ceremony.
Marion Thees (Germany): Edged Huber by four points to win 2013 World Cup title after finishing second in 2012. Also World Cup champion in 2009. World champion in 2009 and 2011.
Katie Uhlaender (USA): 2012 world champion. Two wins, two second-place finishes en route to third overall in 2013. World Cup champion in 2007 and 2008. Also chased Olympic berth in weightlifting. Two-time Olympian – best finish was sixth in 2006.
Elizabeth Yarnold (Britain): Won two of last four races in 2013 season, then on the podium in the first four races of 2013-14. Also third in 2012 World Championship.