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Shelley Osterloh ReportingThis weekend America's best skeleton sliders are battling for a spot on the National Team to compete internationally, and Utah is well represented. It’s an important event for athletes who have their sights set on the next Winter Olympics.
Nobody is assured a spot on the National Skeleton Team, even 2002 Olympic Gold medalist Tristan Gale of Salt Lake City has to prove herself. Though she's earned plenty of international wins and respect, this is a building year for the 2006 Olympics.
Tristan Gale, Olympic Gold Medalist: "I really want to start working up the ladder and that way when we get into next year, the Ilympic year, I can bring home another medal."
Forty athletes started in the US Team trials at Lake Placid, but now the field has narrowed to 25, and two races this weekend will decide.
Chris Hedquist, Salt Lake City: "Although it's only against the national team, it's actually probably the most important race we do all year because these races determine who goes on to world cup and world championships."
The stakes at these trials are very high. Only the top four men and four women will compete on the World Cup circuit. The next top eight competitors go to the Europa Cup, which is a lower level.
Zach Lund, Salt Lake City: "The men's field is extremely tight this year. Uh, you breathe wrong and you go can go anywhere from 1st to 8th place right now."
And making room for some new sliders, Gold Medalist Jimmy Shea Jr. has decided to take a break from International competition. Still he's competing in team trials.
Jimmy Shea Jr. Olympic Gold Medalist: "I'm just keeping in the game, keeping my foot in the game, and having a little fun."
It’s fun that drives Noelle Pikus-Pace of Orem. Only her fourth year on the sled and this track star leads going into the final two races.
Noelle Pikus-Pace, Orem: "Speed, I like the speed, and I like, I don't know, I just like competing."
19-year old Lyndsie Peterson of Taylorsville hopes international race experience will give her a shot at the Olympics.
Lyndsie Peterson, Taylorsville: “I definitely want to make 2006, but we’ll see how the team trials go. We gotta get through this race first.”
You can watch the competition Saturday and Sunday at the Utah Olympic Park. The US Skeleton Team Trials are Saturday and Sunday at 10am. The public is welcome, the price is the regular Olympic Park entry fee of $8 for adults, $4 for children.