Rocky start for American women in skeleton

ALTENBERG, Germany — Annie O’Shea made her first World Cup skeleton appearance this season, finishing 18th to lead the American women in a tough start to the second half of the Olympic season today.

O’Shea pushed off the start block in 5.68 seconds for a first run time of 1:00.59 to put her into the top 20 for the second heat. The veteran clocked a nearly identical start of 5.73 in the final run for an improved time of 1:00.17 to finish 18th with a total of 2:00.76. O’Shea has been racing on the Intercontinental Cup tour this season and entered the final leg of the tour leading into the 2018 Winter Olympic Games as the fourth ranked American in international standings.

Team Germany swept the podium on their home track. Jacqueline Loelling was victorious in 1:57.74, finishing 0.13 seconds ahead of her teammate Tina Hermann in second place. Anna Fernstaedt completed the sweep with a combined time of 1:58.17 for third.

American Savannah Graybill barely missed the cut for a second run, clocking a first heat time of 1:00.64, 0.05 seconds behind O’Shea. She finished 21st.

In her first heat, Kendall Wesenberg slipped at the start, which cost her time as she navigated her way down the tricky Altenberg track. Wesenberg took 23rd after experiencing trouble in Kreisel as well, resulting in a 1:01.27 downtime.

Katie Uhlaender is still recovering from a hamstring injury she suffered prior to the midseason break and is racing on the Intercontinental Cup tour in St. Moritz, Switzerland. She finished second Thursday and won this morning’s race. She’ll stay in St. Moritz to rejoin the World Cup.

World Cup racing resumed at 8 a.m. today with the men’s skeleton competition, followed by Saturday’s bobsled competitions.

Women’s bobsledders have led the Team USA medal haul this season, collecting seven medals during the first half. Elana Meyers Taylor, who has medaled in every race so far this season, is set to compete with Briauna Jones in Jones’ second race this year. Meyers Taylor and Jones teamed for gold on the St. Moritz, Switzerland track last season. Meanwhile Olympic bronze medalists Jamie Greubel Poser and Aja Evans seek their second medal together this season. Meyers Taylor and Greubel Poser currently sit second and third, respectively, in the 2017-2018 IBSF overall standings.

Brittany Reinbolt, who struggled to navigate the harrowing Altenberg track in training this week, will not compete, instead turning her focus to next week’s competition in St. Moritz.

Codie Bascue, who ranks seventh overall in two-man and sixth in four-man, is the only U.S. men’s bobsled pilot racing in Altenberg this weekend. Pilots Nick Cunningham and Justin Olsen are racing on lower circuits in order to gain as many Olympic qualification points as possible before the Olympic team is named on Jan. 15. Cunningham is currently ranked fourth overall in two-man and 18th in four-man, while Olsen sits 11th and 24th, respectively. Bascue’s brakemen for this weekend are yet to be announced, but USABS will post updates on its social media pages once the crew combination is released.