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With 11 medals, U.S. sliding teams had big weekend

For one weekend, Germany was not the dominant sliding nation in the world. Neither was Canada, Italy, Russia nor any other country with a penchant for getting down ice-covered mountainside chutes with blazing speed.

No, this weekend, the United States stood alone.

And with the Sochi Olympics now just two months away, there might be no better time for the Americans to start flexing some muscle.

Winning 10 of the 18 medals awarded at the World Cup bobsled and skeleton stop in Park City, Utah, along with grabbing another medal at the luge World Cup in Whistler, B.C., would figure to give the Americans plenty of momentum heading into more races on home ice next weekend. The bobsled and skeleton teams will be racing in Lake Placid, N.Y., while the luge team takes its turn at the 2002 Olympic track in Park City.

“We have to keep our momentum going,” USA-1 bobsled pilot Steven Holcomb said. “At this point, it is real easy to get complacent. The second we ease up the rest of the field will jump up and stop us. It is only going to get harder and harder the rest of the season.”

The final weekend tally was five gold medals, four silvers and two bronzes.

There were some big moments, like the women’s bobsled team sweeping the podium in a World Cup race for the first time since 2001, women’s skeleton star Noelle Pikus-Pace being dominant in her event, men’s luge racer Chris Mazdzer almost becoming the first American man in 16 years to win a World Cup race, former luge world champion Erin Hamlin clinching her berth in the Sochi Games and Kate Hansen virtually wrapping up another spot.

For Hamlin, the Olympic trip was no surprise.

For Hansen, when she’s on the list of sliders USA Luge will announce this coming weekend as being Sochi-bound, it’ll finally put to rest four years of anguish over narrowly missing the team that raced at the Vancouver Games in 2010.

“I’m definitely a new person from four years ago until now,” Hansen said. “I’ve never prepared so much for something in my life. I’ve learned a lot. These past four years were a humbling four years. I learned a lot about the sport of luge and I learned a lot about myself. I’m more or less just grateful to be in this position. I just feel very prepared.”