Top American skeleton racer injures left leg

CHICAGO -- The top American women's skeleton racer suffered a compound fracture of her lower left leg when struck by a U.S. four-man bobsled Wednesday after it finished a run in Calgary, where the Americans are training.
The injury to Noelle Pikus-Pace, the first U.S. female World Cup champion and a medal favorite at the 2006 Winter Olympics, jeopardizes her chances of representing the U.S. next February in Turin, Italy.
For Olympic selection, skeleton entrants must make the U.S. World Cup team and be among the team leaders in points. Being sidelined for any period is a potentially eliminating factor.
Team officials were trying Wednesday night to determine how the accident occurred in an area where bobsleds slow down and are removed from the track, said U.S. skeleton and bobsled spokesman Tom LaDue in Lake Placid, N.Y.
Pikus-Pace, 22, of Orem, Utah, erupted onto the international scene last winter with three World Cup gold medals, one silver and a bronze after never placing higher than 11th.
Just last week, at a U.S. Olympic Committee media session in Colorado Springs, Pikus-Pace talked about her skeleton breakthrough after transferring from bobsled in 2001. She said she developed a fresh belief in her abilities in the sport, in which sliders go downhill headfirst at 80 m.p.h., by assimilating the support of family and friends and by relaxing.

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