Americans rack up nine medals in Calgary

CALGARY, Alberta — Pilot Geoff Gadbois and his team of Nic Taylor, Brent Fogt and Frank Del Duca led Team USA in the bobsled portion of the Calgary North American Cup, winning three of four races and also collecting a silver.

The Americans collected nine medals in six races, as women’s pilot Kristi Koplin, of Park City, Utah, raced with two rookies, Lake Kwaza and Nicole Brundgardt to take a silver and gold in the women’s bobsled races. After medaling in all four Whistler, Canada races last week, pilot Hunter Church, of Cadyville, teamed with Lou Moreira, Hakeem Abdul-Saboor and Josh Williamson to round out the team’s medal haul with a bronze in two-man and a gold and silver in four-man.

The wins were the first gold medals for both Gadbois and Koplin, the latter of which had topped the podium as a brakeman, but not as a pilot.

After pulling out of the Whistler four-man races following two two-man crashes, Gadbois and his team responded for four medals in four races.

“I was really frustrated leaving Whistler; I was having the fastest down times all week, top speeds, and was really looking for good results,” Gadbois said. “I was really upset I couldn’t put my guys on the podium in Whistler and made it a goal here to make a big statement.”

In the opening two-man race, Gadbois teamed with Taylor to beat out Monaco’s Rudy Rinaldi for gold. Gadbois and Taylor’s 1:51.97 downtime was 0.14 seconds faster than Rinaldi, and 0.28 quicker than bronze medalist Youngjin Suk of Korea, as the Americans rallied for the fastest downtime of each heat. Church teamed with Moreira for a ninth place finish, the only race of the weekend in which Church missed a medal.

Gadbois, with Fogt in the back of his sled in the second two-man competition, went on to beat out Rinaldi by one-tenth of a second with a 1:52.12 combined downtime. Church and Abdul-Saboor took bronze after pushing the fastest start time of the first heat en route to a 1:52.35 total time.

Koplin, who also struggled in Whistler, came back to post her strongest North American Cup performance as a pilot. In the opening race, she and Kwaza matched the fastest start time of the first heat and threaded together the second and fourth fastest downtimes of each heat for a 1:55.88 combined downtime and the silver medal. The duo topped Yooran Kim of Korea, who took third in 1:56.08, but fell behind China’s Qing Ying, who won the race in 1:55.63.

Fellow Americans Nicole Vogt (Dallas, Texas) and Brundgardt teamed for a fourth-place finish despite recording the third fastest downtimes of each heat.

“I am extremely impressed with the race brakemen Lake and Nicole,” Koplin said. “They both pushed their hearts out and did so with confidence. With good push times, they made it possible to finish the race in the position we were in.”

Koplin and Brundgardt followed the performance the next day with a gold, posting the fastest downtime of each heat en route to each of their first wins in their respective positions. Meanwhile, Vogt recorded her second consecutive fourth place finish, this time with Kwaza in the back of her sled.

Koplin and Brundgardt dominated the competition, beating out silver medalist Kim by 0.88 seconds and third place finisher Ying by 1.28 seconds. They threw down the fastest run of each heat, threading together downtimes of 57.46 and 57.40 to top the field.

“This week has been a roller coaster,” Koplin said. “I am elated to be on the uphill portion right now though and have my first win as an NAC pilot.”

Four-man competition kicked off Thursday with another win for Gadbois, teaming with Taylor, Fogt and Del Duca. The team matched the fastest push of the first heat, a 5.25 second start, and tied together 55.05 and 55.19 second downtimes to edge teammates Church, Moreira, Adbul-Saboor and Williamson, who took second in 1:50.40, topping Suk, whose team finished in 1:50.55.

Church, with Moreira, Abdul-Saboor and Williamson once again in the back of his sled, topped the field in the final four-man race for Church’s first gold of the weekend. Their 1:50.34 combined downtime bested Gadbois’ crew by 0.15 seconds and a strong second heat allowed them to jump up into first over their teammates and third place Suk, who was 0.19 seconds out of the gold.

The North American Cup circuit next heads to Park City, Utah before its midseason break.