Germany's Thees wins World Cup skeleton race

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WHISTLER, British Columbia (AP) -- Germany's Marion Thees won a World Cup women's skeleton race Friday, finishing with a two-run time of 1 minute, 50.92 seconds on a day where former world champion Noelle Pikus-Pace returned to the circuit after a brief retirement.

Canada's Sarah Reid was second in 1:51.09 and Britain's Elizabeth Yarnold was third in 1:51.17. Thees took the lead in the season standings, 32 points ahead of American Katie Uhlaender, the reigning world champion.

"It's my favorite track," said Thees, the third winner in three World Cup races this season. "It's not normal that I can win here, but I knew if I had good sliding, I could."

Pikus-Pace of Orem, Utah, was the top American, finishing sixth. Uhlaender, from Breckenridge, Colo., was seventh after winning last week in Park City, Utah.

Pikus-Pace retired after finishing fourth at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics on the Whistler track, saying she needed to spend more time with her family. They were all there with her Friday, as they will be throughout the remainder of the World Cup season.

"There's an entire team of people making my comeback happen," said Pikus-Pace, who immediately embraced her husband and two children after she finished her second run Friday. "There are so many people showing support by cheering me on, donating, and providing things so we're able to be here as a family. The coaches have been incredible, and the team is working well together."

Pikus-Pace had run times Friday of 55.64 and 55.73 seconds, a combined 1:51.37. After the three medalists, Pikus-Pace was beaten Friday by only a pair of Canadians on home ice -- Cassie Hawrysh (115.19) was fourth and Mellisa Hollingsworth (1:51.25) was fifth.

"It feels good to get the first World Cup race out of the way so I can settle my nerves and move forward," Pikus-Pace said. "It feels like a different world. I'm the same person on the sled, but the way I handle competition now is so different."

Uhlaender finished just behind her teammate in seventh position with a total time of 1:51.58. The reigning World Champion posted identical starts of 5.04 seconds for runs of 55.97 and 55.61.

"I didn't set up my sled properly for the first run," Uhlaender said. "During the second heat I found my mistake. ... The competition is so tough; it could really be anyone's game. I just have to remember that when I have my stuff together, I'm right there in the medal hunt."