Olympics-Skeleton-Dukurs brothers aim high for Latvia


By Justin Palmer

ROSA KHUTOR, Russia, Feb 12 (Reuters) - If Martins Dukurs can replicate the form that earned him five straight overall World Cup men's skeleton titles then a first Winter Olympic gold for Latvia surely awaits.

Dukurs won a silver medal in Vancouver, while his older brother Tomass finished fourth, and the Dukurs siblings could be standing side by side on the podium come Saturday.

"Of course I feel (the pressure) and everyone is asking, ... my goal is to show my best potential but what happens we'll see," Martins told Reuters after completing his sixth and final training run.

Martins said he and Tomass enjoy a close relationship and were "pushing each other".

"We are competitors and we don't have secrets," he added.

The brothers could not be separated on Wednesday, clocking the same training time for the second time at these Games.

Tomass predicted it would be "an interesting race".

"The track is fast," he said.

A new men's champion will be crowned after Canada's 2010 winner Jon Montgomery failed to qualify for Sochi.

Russia's hopes lie with Alexander Tretiakov, who won bronze four years ago and underlined his medal credentials by becoming world champion last year.

Other medal contenders include Matt Antoine, making his Olympic debut 10 years after he was told he would not make the American team because he lacked sufficient natural talent.

There will also be a new Olympic champion in the women's skeleton, which starts with the first two heats on Thursday, following the retirement of 2010 winner Amy Williams.

Britain has high hopes of following up Williams' triumph with Olympic debutant Lizzy Yarnold favourite for gold after an impressive season in which she won a first World Cup title.

"The competition is so fierce, we're a group of very, very strong and ambitious women so I'm very proud to compete alongside them and I'm just here to do my best and do myself justice," Yarnold said.

American Noelle Pikus-Pace has battled for supremacy all season with Yarnold and there will be no more popular winner than the 31-year-old, who retired after coming fourth in Vancouver, before returning to the sport in 2012.

Pikus-Pace saw her Olympic hopes shattered weeks before the 2006 Games when she suffered a broken leg when a bobsleigh crashed into her after failing to brake at the finish line. (Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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