Ben Sandford not only has a world championship bronze medal to cherish, but also a hefty cash handout after his outstanding performance at the world skeleton championships yesterday.

The 32-year-old from Rotorua is the second New Zealand athlete to make the podium at a world championship, and the second called Sandford.

Yesterday's performance at Lake Placid, in upstate New York, puts Sandford alongside his uncle Bruce, who won gold in Calgary 20 years ago, and has him in line for a $55,000 performance grant from High Performance Sport New Zealand.

Sandford, who has a world ranking of No 13, clocked 3min 39.50s over his four rounds.


World No 1 Latvian Martins Dukurs justified his standing by winning the title in 3:37.09 while German Frank Rommel, world No 2, took silver in 3:39.17, just .33s up on Sandford, who in turn finished .15s ahead of fourth-placed Russian Sergei Chudinov.

Sandford would have had a thought for Uncle Bruce, as well as the immense satisfaction of his achievement on one of his favourite tracks.

Skeleton racers, who slide head first down an icy track on a sled, are divided into those who are pushers or drivers.

Pushers benefit on tracks with a long sprint start. Sandford is one of those who prefers a shorter sprint, which accentuates driving ability.

Lake Placid, and St Moritz, where he placed second in the World Cup event last month, both favour Sandford's style.

He is a veteran of the circuit, having been competing internationally for close to 10 years.

"He's proven he's capable of sliding with the best when the track suits his style," Ashley Light, head of HPSNZ's winter performance programme, said last night. "Obviously he's done his confidence the world of good knowing he can mix it with the best.

"It's been a long time coming. Any winter sports medal for New Zealand is rare and the country should be proud of what he's achieved."


Sandford, who has also won four second-tier America's Cup titles this season, finished 13th at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver two years ago, which was a "pushers" track.

Yesterday's result offers realistic hopes of him being a serious contender at the Sochi Winter Games in Russia in 2014.

Wanaka's Katharine Eustace finished 13th in the women's final yesterday, on her first full year on the circuit, during which she took three top 10 placings in World Cup races last month.

She clocked 3:45.00, 2.31s behind bronze medallist Elizabeth Yarnold of Britain.

American Katie Uhlaender won an emotional first world champs gold medal, in 3:42.33 - .17s ahead of Canadian Mellisa Hollingsworth.

The last time Uhlaender raced the worlds at Lake Placid in 2009 was two weeks after her father, Ted, a former Major League baseballer, had died of cancer, and her victory also comes after twice battling back from smashing a kneecap.