ST. MORITZ, Switzerland (AP) — Alexander Tretiakov of Russia clung on to a rapidly decreasing lead over two-time defending champion Martins Dukurs to win his first skeleton world championship title on Saturday.
Tretiakov led by nearly half a second ahead of Dukurs going into the fourth and final run, and he narrowly held off his Latvian rival to win by just 0.03 seconds.
"It's not important how close second is, it's the title that counts," Tretiakov said.
Dukurs, responding to a poor third run, had clocked the fastest time of the competition in his final trip down an Olympia track dusted with snow.
Racing last, Tretiakov then got off to his usual fast start but still saw his lead become smaller and smaller at every split time.
"That's what the sport and the races are all about," Dukurs said. "I wouldn't have thought I could reduce the distance between me and Alexander quite so far."
Bronze medalist Sergei Chudinov of Russia was 2.27 behind Tretiakov's combined time of 4 minutes, 32.35 seconds.
John Daly of the United States placed in a tie for fifth, 2.84 behind Tretiakov, while 2010 Olympic champion Jon Montgomery of Canada was seventh.
Tretiakov, the Olympic bronze medalist, sent a strong message one year ahead of his home Winter Games in Sochi. The Olympic track also hosts the World Cup finals meeting this month.
Dukurs took silver at the Olympics and had won each overall World Cup, world and European title since Vancouver until Saturday's defeat.
Earlier, Alexsandr Zubkov of Russia took a narrow lead at the midway point of the four-man bobsled competition, and defending champion Steven Holcomb of the U.S. was third.
Zubkov and his crew of Alexey Negodaylo, Dmitry Trunenkov and Maxim Mokrousov had a combined two-run time of 2 minutes, 10.84 seconds, to lead German driver Maximilian Arndt by 0.05.
Holcomb, the Olympic champion, and his crew of Justin Olsen, Steven Langton and Curtis Tomaseviczis placed 0.30 behind Zubkov ahead of the final two runs Sunday.
"The snow made it difficult to make speed, but that was for all sleds," Holcomb said. "The guys are pumped and really stepped it up today, and I know they will go even harder (Sunday)."