Did helmet make a difference in skeleton win?

Amy Williams won the women's skeleton on Friday night for Great Britain, the country's only medal so far in the Vancouver Olympics. She won with a lead of more than half a second, an eternity in the skeleton race. (In comparison, Canada's Jon Montgomery won the men's skeleton by a mere 0.07 seconds.)

How did someone who hadn't placed above fourth in any World Cup events this season suddenly vault to the top of the Olympic podium? According to protests from the United States and Canada, it was her helmet.

The U.S. filed two protests and Canada filed one with the International Federation of Bobsleigh and Tobogganing, the governing body that oversees skeleton. The two countries claimed that ridges on Williams' helmet didn't conform to aerodynamic standards set by the FIBT. In skeleton, the athletes race down the track headfirst, so the helmet can make a difference in race times.

All three protests were denied by the FIBT, which ruled that the aerodynamic ridges were an integral part of Williams' helmet.

The protests can be seen as sour grapes, since the U.S. and Canadian athletes came in fourth and fifth, respectively, although one of the U.S. protests came after Thursday's preliminary heats. But even if Williams had been out of the medal equation, Canadian competitor Mellisa Hollingsworth would still have been off the medal stand.

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