Matt Antoine won his last race, one that came earlier than anyone around USA Skeleton anticipated.
The 2014 Olympic bronze medalist from Prairie du Chien, Wis., announced his retirement Friday, moments after taking his final run at the team trials for the coming season. Antoine would have been USA-1 on the World Cup circuit again this year after winning those trials, but he hopped off his sled after crossing the finish line at Mount Van Hoevenberg in Lake Placid, N.Y., and declared he was done. Antoine plans to continue in the sport as a coach.
"Even though I know competing isn't right for me anymore, I still feel like I have a lot to give to the sport," Antoine said. "I want to be involved, even if it's in a different capacity. I would not have had the career that I have without so many great people within the organization. Coaches, staff, medical personnel; the list goes on. Hopefully, I can be one of those people to a future athlete."
His departure as a competitor is a major blow for the U.S. men's team that now has no active slider with any Olympic experience. Antoine and John Daly were the two U.S. men at the Pyeongchang Games this year; Daly decided to stop sliding earlier this offseason, and learned in the last couple of days his close friend has chosen to call it a career as well.
"I told him I wished I was there to see his last run," Daly said.
Antoine was a nine-time World Cup medalist and the top-ranked American men's slider on the circuit in each of the last five seasons. It's expected he will now move into a role as a coach with the U.S. team, and talks between he and the federation have started with both sides hoping to get a deal done.
"Matt has been a rock for the team," USA Bobsled and Skeleton CEO Darrin Steele said. "While we'll miss watching him battle it out on the ice, we're looking forward to having Matt join our coaching staff to help develop the next generation of athletes to follow in his footsteps."
Antoine and Daly will forever be linked by the result at the Sochi Games.
The battle for the bronze medal basically came down to the two of them, Antoine was third and Daly fourth going into the final run of the competition. Daly lost control of his sled at the start of his last run, and immediately knew he had no chance of finishing anywhere near the medal stand. Antoine wound up taking the bronze, and quickly found an inconsolable Daly afterward.
"He came up to me and said 'the only reason I got this is because of you and the only reason we got this is because we had each other,'" Daly said. "He's such a selfless act, such a class act. The guy doesn't say a lot but when he does it means something."
Antoine, Daly and Kyle Tress — three best friends, Daly said — were teammates on that 2014 Olympic team. Tress retired a year ago, Daly is almost certainly retired for good and now Antoine has joined them.
"To be able to spend my entire career sliding and competing with my best friends, that's the greatest feeling," Antoine said after his final run at the PyeongChang Games in 2018. "Those are the things you're going to remember most when it's all over. The results, they fade away. The crowds go home. The friendships that you have are the things you're going to remember."
Antoine set a standard within the program.
"Matt set the standard for excellence for all American skeleton athletes, then consistently surpassed it season after season," Tress said. "John and I were lucky to be beside him nearly every step of the way."