Janine Flock wins women's World Cup skeleton opener

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- Janine Flock always seems right at home in Lake Placid.

The Austrian broke her own Mount Van Hoevenberg track record Thursday on the way to winning the first World Cup women's skeleton race of the Olympic season. It's the second straight season that Flock has won in Lake Placid, where she also claimed a silver and a bronze in previous stops.

"It's a hard and a tough track," Flock said. "I like to be more focused and more concentrated, because it's very hard. It's very rough. It's bumpy. It's not good for your head. But it's a special, nice track with nice, round, cool rhythm. Yes, I love Placid."

That was evident less than a minute into her season.

Flock's first run was 54.69 seconds -- 0.15 seconds below the track mark she set last month. Her time ended up being more than three-tenths of a second better than any other slider's best on Thursday. She was significantly slower in the second run yet still prevailed by 0.26 seconds, with a two-run time of 1:50.13.

"It's awesome. It's the best thing that can happen for me," Flock said. "It's the best thing when you start the season with a good result."

Canada's Elisabeth Vathje was second at 1:50.39, and reigning Olympic gold medalist Lizzy Yarnold of Britain was third at 1:50.46.

Vathje got off the ice and leaped into her mother's arms in celebration. She hasn't yet qualified for the Pyeongchang Games, but Thursday's result was a major boost toward that effort.

"She's going to be at all the races this year," Vathje said of her mother, Rita. "She gets accreditation so she can be part of the action, and she's a massive part to my success. She just keeps me chill and helps me [not] be such a head case. So I'm really thankful for her -- and thankful she can catch me."

Reigning World Cup overall champion Jacqueline Lolling of Germany was eighth. The top American was Katie Uhlaender, who finished ninth. Savannah Graybill was 11th, and Kendall Wesenberg took 14th for the United States.