KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Noelle Pikus-Pace made her skeleton comeback a family affair.
Knowing the competitive embers still burned but also knowing she didn't want to spend winters in Europe on the World Cup circuit away from her husband, Janson, and two kids, Lacee and Traycen, Pikus-Pace decided bring her family with her.
For the past two World Cup seasons, they traveled from mountain winter wonderland to mountain winter wonderland in hopes that Friday ended with a medal at the Sochi Olympics.
With her husband and two children in attendance and riding a sled designed and built by Janson, Pikus-Pace captured a silver medal in women's skeleton at the Sanki Sliding Center.
"She's an amazing person," U.S. skeleton coach Tuffy Latour said. "She comes out each and every day ready to get to work. She's very focused. She's very determined."
After Thursday's two heats Pikus-Pace, who missed bronze at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics by one-tenth of a second, said, "Obviously everybody is going for that gold medal … but I'm pretty sure I'll be pretty stoked just to be on the podium."
Pikus-Pace, who raced with bad back, finished behind gold medalist Lizzy Yarnold of Great Britain, who completed the four heats in 3:52.89. Pikus-Pace finished in 3:53.86.
Russia's Elena Nikitina won bronze, and American Katie Uhlaender placed fourth.
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The gold capped a breakout season for Yarnold, who also won the World Cup overall title. She had a lead of 0.44 seconds after the first two runs, then opened Friday's racing by adding another one-third of a second to her lead to essentially remove any doubt the gold would be hers.
Just minutes before Pikus-Pace's final run, she tweeted from the start house, "My final goals for my last and final run of my career...see you at the bottom!"
It was a long journey filled with heartache and pain for Pikus-Pace. In 2005 as she was trying to qualify for the 2006 Torino Olympics, she was hit a bobsled while standing with a group of people at the end of sliding track in Calgary. She sustained a fractured right leg and missed the Olympics.
After her fourth-place finish in Whistler four years ago, she retired. She made it to the Olympics, reached her goal and was ready spend more time with her family. She said she envisioned a life of PTA meetings, soccer practices, baking cookies and making fudge.
"I was ready to move on to a new chapter," she said.
But after the 2010 Olympics, she had a miscarriage and realized that she still wanted to compete.
"Passion isn't something you can force yourself to have. It's not something you can exercise to develop. You either have or don't have," she said. "The light switch was back on.
"I know that I'm good enough without medal. Come what may, I'll be happy with my result because I know I'll do the best I can. My intention is to get a medal. I'm not going just to be an Olympian. I've been there, done that. Now, it's time with my husband and my kids by side with a sled by husband built. We're getting it done."
That she did.