Sliding season set to begin

LAKE PLACID — USA Bobsled & Skeleton National Team Trials are set to begin Saturday when skeleton athletes, who are currently training in Calgary, Alberta, will compete in the first of four races.

Calgary will host the first two skeleton races before athletes travel back to Lake Placid to join bobsled on home ice for their final two competitions. Bobsled, meanwhile, will race Sunday as well as Saturday, Oct. 14 in Lake Placid.

Qualifying for the national team is the first step to making the 2018 Olympic team, which will be named in January.

“It’s always exciting to get a season started, but the Olympic year has a different feeling to it,” 2014 Olympic bronze medalist Matt Antoine said. “Your approach and preparation this year are different. These first few weeks are the time to see where you are at physically and mentally.”

Because members of the national team will be traveling to Pyeongchang, South Korea on Oct. 19 for an international training week, team trials dates are earlier than normal and are thus subject to change due to warm weather conditions. The USA Bobsled National Team is expected to be named on Oct. 15, while the USA Skeleton National Team will be announced Oct. 18.

Bobsled rosters are selected based largely on results from USABS National Team Trials. With each race, athletes accumulate points depending on their results. The bobsled pilot with the most cumulative points at the end of trials gets an automatic spot on the national team. The second spot is chosen based on the recommendation of the National Team Selection Committee, which is comprised of coaches, staff and USABS board members. The third driver is the next-highest ranked athlete at the conclusion of trials. Push athletes are selected based on a combination of not only trials race results, but also combine results, USA Bobsled National Push Championships and past results from previous seasons.

The selection process for the six men’s and women’s spots on the skeleton national team is fairly similar, where the overall winner of trials gets a spot on the team. The second spot is allotted by the selection committee and then the next-highest ranked slider earns the third spot. The national team roster is then filled out based on team trials rank.

Team USA is coming off a 2016-2017 season that saw bobsled and skeleton athletes win 69 medals across six tours. The 2017-2018 team will look to continue that success, with many of the top athletes returning for a shot at Olympic glory.

Women’s bobsled once again led the team on the podium with 16 total medals on the World Cup circuit, highlighted by Elana Meyers Taylor (Douglasville, Georgia) and Kehri Jones’ world championship title and Jamie Greubel Poser (Newtown, Pennsylvania) winning her first career overall women’s bobsled World Cup title with Aja Evans (Chicago, Illinois).

“We’re really excited to get on ice,” Meyers Taylor said. “It’s been a long and difficult summer, but at the same time a short summer. We’re excited to get going and see what we’ve got with all the talent and see what comes together. Everyone’s been working really hard this summer, so we’re excited to see the results on the ice and how we stack up against the rest of the world.”

The entire women’s bobsled national team from last season returns to the field for team trials, and Meyers Taylor and Greubel Poser are the only two athletes with a ‘bye’ onto this year’s team, earned based on their World Championships podium finishes.

On the men’s side, Justin Olsen (San Antonio, Texas) will look for his second national team berth in the driver’s seat, and will race with Evan Weinstock (Las Vegas, Nevada), Steve Langton (Melrose, Massachusetts) and Christopher Fogt (Alpine, Utah) during team trials. Olympic medalists Langton and Fogt return to the field after three-year hiatuses from the sport. Meanwhile, pilots Nick Cunningham (Monterey, California) and Codie Bascue (Whitehall) will look to secure their spots on the national team once again.

A strong field of push athletes return, including Langton, Fogt, Weinstock, Carlo Valdes and Sam McGuffie, all of whom have proven themselves on the ice in seasons past. Evans, Kehri Jones, Lolo Jones (Des Moines, Iowa), Briauna Jones (Charlotte, North Carolina) and Lauren Gibbs (Los Angeles) lead a competitive lineup of women’s push athletes.

Antoine, along with two-time Olympian John Daly (Smithtown) and 2016-2017 World Cup athletes Nathan Crumpton (Park City, Utah) and Kyle Tress (Ewing, New Jersey) are set to lead a men’s skeleton field that also includes 2016-2017 National Team athletes Kyle Brown (Concord, New Hampshire), Stephen Garbett (Parker, Colorado), Greg West (Springfield, Missouri) and Mike Rogals (Orwell, Vermont).

On the women’s side, the entire 2016-2017 National Team returns as well, led by World Cup athletes Annie O’Shea (Port Jefferson Station), Kendall Wesenberg (Modesto, California) and three-time Olympian Katie Uhlaender (Breckenridge, Colorado), as well as the Intercontinental Cup team in Savannah Graybill (Denver, Pennsylvania), Megan Henry (Roxbury, Connecticut) and Veronica Day (Vienna, Virginia).