American women climb podium
WHISTLER, British Columbia — Jamie Greubel Poser teamed with Aja Evans for silver, while Elana Meyers Taylor paired with Kehri Jones to rebound from last season’s finish with a bronze in Friday’s women’s bobsled World Cup in Whistler.
This is the second-consecutive week that two American teams have finished on the podium this season. Greubel Poser won the previous week’s race in Park City, Utah and finished just out of the medals in fourth in Lake Placid’s season-opener. Meyers Taylor has a silver and two bronze medals from the three races. Four push athletes have earned the five medals so far this season in the back of the sleds of Greubel Poser and Meyers Taylor: Evans, Jones, Lolo Jones and Lauren Gibbs.
Conditions were rainy in Whistler on Friday, and several teams, including seasoned veterans, crashed during the race. Despite the varying conditions, Greubel Poser said she was able to stay focused on what she needed to do.
“I feel comfortable on this track,” Greubel Poser said. “I don’t watch what’s happening during the race, I focus on what I need to do. We gave it our best effort today. We had some great pushes, and I would have liked to have had better runs, but the track has been different every day. The weather has been changing the tracks drastically this first half. I’ve never raced here under these conditions, but that’s the nature of the sport, you have to deal with what Mother Nature gives you.”
Greubel Poser and Evans put themselves in medal position after a first run start time of 5.09 seconds, which matched the former record, and a run time of 53.30 seconds. They were the only team to challenge Canadians Kaillie Humphries and Melissa Lotholz on their home track, finishing 0.15 seconds from the leaders heading into heat two. The 2014 Olympic bronze medalists maintained their silver medal position in run two with a start of 5.16 and finish time of 53.85, securing their podium spot in 1:47.15.
Meyers Taylor teamed with Jones to set a new Whistler start record en route to a bronze-medal finish. World Championship gold medal teammates Meyers Taylor and Jones broke the former push record of 5.09, set by Canadians Humphries and Cynthia Appiah in 2016, with a start time of 5.06 seconds in run one to start their campaign for the medals. Meyers Taylor piloted her BMW sled to the finish in 55.52 seconds, fourth best of the heat. The duo battled back in run two, pushing another monster start time of 5.07 for a run of 53.98 seconds to move up a spot into the medals with a combined time of 1:47.50.
Meyers Taylor and Jones raced together in last season’s Whistler race, when they also pushed a 5.06 start time for a potential new record before Meyers Taylor lost control from the high rate of speed and the team crashed. Meyers Taylor said she was “shaken up” after her runs Friday, but was happy to come away with the official start record and a medal this time around.
“I had two close calls out of the 50/50 corner,” Meyers Taylor said. ” I don’t have a lot of runs here as a pilot, and there’s no room for error on this track. But, we made it out this year and it’s a big improvement from last year. Kehri always helps push me to a position to win, and I definitely feel like we have a strong team going into this Olympic season. We are consistently pushing in the top-five, no matter what track we’re on or what the driver and push athlete combination is. It says a lot about our brakeman, it’s a big deal. I’m excited to see what happens as we move forward and refine things.”
Humphries teamed with Lotholz for the victory. The Canadians dominated with the two fastest times of the race, 53.15 and 53.52, to claim gold by 0.48 seconds with a total time of 1:46.67.
WHISTLER, British Columbia — Codie Bascue teamed with Carlo Valdes, Sam McGuffie and Nate Weber for eighth place in Whistler’s four-man bobsled World Cup on Saturday.
“Whistler and I have a love-hate relationship,” Bascue said. “Yesterday didn’t go so well in two-man. I didn’t have two good runs, and today I just wanted to come in and get two solid runs. I was shooting for a top-10, and we still managed to do that, but I was really hoping to put together a better second run. I’m still happy though, I didn’t expect to be in the hunt for the medals after the first heat.”
Bascue, of Whitehall, started the season as the two-man bobsled points leader with gold and bronze medals, but a 16th place in Whistler on Friday dropped him to sixth in standings. Bascue had an equally impressive start to his four-man season after winning his first-ever World Cup medal in the discipline, a silver, last week in Park City, Utah. Bascue was eager to return to the 2010 Olympic track Saturday to better Friday’s finish, aiming for a top 10.
Team Bascue was tied for fifth with German Johannes Lochner’s sled after clocking a first run time of 50.91 seconds. Both sleds were just one-tenth of a second from bronze medal position heading into the final heat. Sleds shifted positions throughout the second run as the tightly contested race played out. Bascue made some small mistakes that dropped the team back three spots into eighth, exceeding his expectations of a top-10 finish with a total time of 1:42.50.
Bascue, Weber, Valdes and McGuffie continue to be one of the fastest teams off the start block. The crew powered the Night Train 2 sled off the block in 4.76 and 4.74 seconds, third and second best of the field, respectively.
“The guys pushed really well,” Bascue said. “We work really well together. The chemistry is there, and I think our times will just continue to get better throughout the season. They put so much effort in every day, and I just wish I’d had a better final heat for them.”
The British team of Lamin Deen, Ben Simons, Toby Olubi and Andrew Matthews broke a seven-year track record in the first heat with a run of 50.66 seconds that put them in the lead. The former record of 50.86 was set during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics by the gold medal winning American team of Steven Holcomb, Justin Olsen, Steve Mesler and Curt Tomasevicz.
Deen’s team ended up in the silver medal position though after a stellar second heat from Russian Alexander Kasjanov, who drove to gold with a combined downtime of 1:41.89 with Ilvir Khuzin, Vasiliy Kondratenko and Alexei Pushkarev. Deen made a couple of mistakes in the second heat that cost him time, but held on to second in 1:42.17. Nico Walther of Germany teamed with Kevin Kuske, Kevin Korona and Eric Franke to take bronze in 1:42.37.
Hunter Church, of Cadyville, Brent Fogt, Lou Moreira and Hakeem Abdul-Saboor teamed up for a 4.86-second start in the first run, but their 51.77 second downtime was not enough to earn a second run, and they finished 22nd.
The 21-year-old Church has seven medals on the North American Cup tour so far this season, and this weekend marked his World Cup debut in both two-man and four-man. He was accompanied by a veteran crew, as Fogt, Moreira and Abdul-Saboor — who is a member of this year’s national team — all have previous World Cup and national team experience.
Nick Cunningham opted not to race Saturday, deciding to instead race in both four-man North American Cup competitions in Park City, Utah next week to gain additional points towards Olympic qualification. Justin Olsen did not travel to Whistler. Olsen, still new to the driver’s seat, stayed in Park City for extra training before he races in the North American Cup. He’ll rejoin the World Cup tour at its next stop in Winterberg, Germany, which takes place Dec. 4-10.