Less than four months from the Vancouver Olympics, the U.S. skeleton team is already dealing with some significant injury issues.
Eric Bernotas, the 2006 Olympian who was leading after the first day of national team trials, was excused Thursday from the remainder of that competition with a pulled leg muscle.
The U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation said Bernotas will be one of the four men's sliders headed to Whistler, B.C. this month for official training on the Olympic track.
Barring another injury, Bernotas will be on the World Cup roster when that season begins next month.
"I've got to get better," Bernotas said.
He's the second prominent U.S. skeleton racer out of the team trials, a key part of the Olympic selection process. Two-time World Cup overall champion and 2006 Olympian Katie Uhlaender is still recovering from three surgeries on her left kneecap. Uhlaender shattered the kneecap in a snowmobile crash in April, then re-injured herself in another mishap two months ago.
It has already been an extremely difficult 2009 for Uhlaender. Her father _ former major league outfielder Ted Uhlaender _ died of cancer Feb. 12, the day she won a World Cup silver medal in Park City, Utah. Unlike Bernotas, Uhlaender's waiver does not yet carry the stipulation that she's automatically assured a World Cup spot.
"I'm a warrior and I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing," Uhlaender said. "I'm being the athlete my dad raised me to be, and that's to do the best not to complain, get up and do what I can. That's all I can do. There's no point in making myself sick over worry or saying 'What if?' I have what I have and I'll do what I have to do."
They're not the only two banged-up skeleton racers right now.
Zach Lund has a strained hamstring, but his request for a medical waiver was denied. He also had a back problem in September.
Lund missed the 2006 Turin Olympics because of a one-year suspension for a doping violation triggered by a hair-restoration drug that wasn't compliant with World Anti-Doping Agency regulations.
Lund was on the track early Thursday when competition resumed at the team's Mt. Van Hoevenberg training base.
The skeleton trials conclude with two more race days Oct. 23 and 24 in Park City, Utah. It's likely that the three top-ranked men and women will qualify for the training days in Whistler, where they'll be joined by Bernotas and Uhlaender.
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