Para bobsledders hit the ice at Van Ho
LAKE PLACID — Barry Schroeder placed fourth and fifth to lead Team USA in this weekend’s Para Bobsled World Cup races on home ice at Mount Van Hoevenberg.
Schroeder, who has already qualified for this season’s Para Bobsled World Championships in Lillehammer, Norway, in March, said sliding the Lake Placid track has been one of his goals in the sport since he began competing.
“I’ve been dying to slide this track,” Schroeder, of Ohio, said. “Just being here is amazing. The two tracks I’ve always wanted to slide were Placid and St. Moritz, Switzerland, and I didn’t get to slide in St. Moritz last year because I gave up my World Championship spot to come home and see my kids. It’s been a blast this week.”
Schroeder’s results this weekend were his third and fourth consecutive top six finishes this season after he finished sixth twice in the season-opening Calgary, Canada para races.
In the opening race Friday morning, Switzerland’s Christopher Steward took his first-ever gold medal in para bobsled, threading together runs of 49.10 and 49.27 seconds to top the field. Great Britain’s Corie Mapp earned the silver after throwing down the fastest run of the first heat en route to a combined downtime of 1:38.84. Canadian Lonnie Bissonette finished with the bronze in 1:38.88.
For Team USA, Schroeder finished just 0.09 seconds out of a medal due to a strong second run that saw him jump from seventh place between heats to fourth.
“The first run, I gained a lot of confidence because I was having a lot of problems with the top of the track during training this week,” he said. “The top half of the first run was great, and I got a little lazy on the bottom half and lost it a little bit. My time paid for it. My second run was much better, I was happy with it. I was able to climb up through the rankings and come out top five. That’s a good finish for me, especially for a track I had never slid on.”
Meanwhile, teammate Dawn Macomber (Derry, New Hampshire), who last season became the first woman to race in a para bobsled competition, was Team USA’s next fastest finisher in sixth. Macomber clocked times of 49.36 and 49.96 for the first top six finish of her career.
“I didn’t have my best training week on this track,” Macomber said. “I’ve driven this track the most, but I was still trying to work on Curve 17 today. I wish I had had some more time to try to get up to speed. But I’m happy with sixth, it’s my best performance yet. Racing close to home is great. I feel like this is my home track.”
Jason Sturm (Herndon, Virginia) took seventh behind Macomber with a combined downtime of 1:39.79. Sturm has consistently been one of Team USA’s top finishers this season, turning in two medal performances in Calgary, earning a gold and bronze medal there.
This week was just Sturm’s second time sliding Lake Placid, and his first time piloting a mono bobsled on the tricky track.
“It could’ve gone better,” he said. “I’m still learning this track, so I feel good with what I’m doing. There’s a couple of problem spots, but overall I love the track. I always think whenever we’re racing, I’ve only been doing this for four years. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
Dave Nicholls (Park City, Utah) and Lee Kuxhaus (San Antonio, Texas) rounded out Team USA’s results in 10th and 12th, respectively. Nicholls finished with a combined downtime of 1:40.61, while Kuxhaus, a para skeleton athlete driving a bobsled for the first time, crashed in her first run, but crossed the finish line and recorded a combined downtime of 1:41.53.
Schroeder was the top American in the second race as well, posting a combined time of 1:38.37 for fifth place. Mapp topped the podium in 1:37.76, followed by Bissonnette in second in 1:37.92. Latvia’s Annija Krumina, who made history last week as the first woman to win a para bobsled race, took home bronze in 1:38.17.
Kuxhaus showed huge improvement in her second race, just missing a top six finish. She took seventh after threading together downtimes of 49.28 and 49.39. Macomber, Nicholls and Sturm took 10th, 11th and 12th, respectively. Sturm, who crashed in his first run, did not take a second run.
The Lake Placid races concluded the first half of the Para Bobsled World Cup season. The team will break for the holidays before heading to Igls, Austria in January.