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USA Bobsled finishes first push competition

Kaillie Humphries gets ready to push off at the indoor ice facility at Mount Van Hoevenberg in Lake Placid during the USA Bobsled Push Championships on Saturday July 21. (Enterprise photo — Parker O’Brien) (Enterprise photo — Parker O’Brien)

LAKE PLACID — USA Bobsled competed in the USA Push Championships at the new indoor ice facility at the Olympic Sports Complex at Mount Van Hoevenberg on Friday and Saturday.

On Friday, Sylvia Hoffman recorded the lowest time for the women’s push athletes and Frank Del Duca won the men’s driver competition. Three-time Olympic medalist Elana Meyers Taylor won the women’s drivers competition while Charlie Volker won the men’s push title.

“It’s huge for us to get an early competition in and to start getting those competitive juices flowing, especially in an Olympic year,” Meyers Taylor said.

According to USA Bobsled and Skeleton CEO Aron McGuire, the Push Championships is one of the first steps to making the Olympic team. USA Bobsled will use data collected from the push competitions to “progress athletes to the next step,” which will be combination pushing next month. USA Bobsled will use data collected throughout the season to help determine the Olympic team.

“Someone told me you can’t make the Olympic team right now but you can definitely put yourself in a bad spot at the start of the season,” Volker said. “I’m glad I did not do that. I’m glad I didn’t injure myself.”

Athletes who competed were required to compete twice and had the option to compete for a third time as the best two times combined for each athlete determined the winner.

Some athletes, such as three-time Olympic medalist Kaillie Humphries, who sustained an injury during her second push, decided to scratch for the final heat, according to USA Bobsled.

According to Humphries, the push competition is really important as it is the first step, especially in an Olympic year. But at the same time, they have a long way to go until February, “so this isn’t be-all and end-all,” she said. But it definitely gives them a sense of where they are training-wise.

The USA Bobsled team has been training at new ice facility in Lake Placid and some have described it as a “game changer.”

“It makes a big difference for us as American athletes” Humphries said, who previously competed for Canada. “It’s been really good, being able to actually do our sport on ice. We have actually been able to see a lot of changes just in our mentality, how we are able to approach training, the things we are able to work on and tweak.”

According to Humphries, things that the bobsled athletes normally had wait until October to do they can now do in July. In October they expect to be “miles ahead” and not have as much to learn in a shortened period of time before racing starts.

“We’re excited to see it setting into fruition and to be using it,” McGuire said. “From a training stand point we are months ahead of where we typically are this time of year. Which certainly helps our US athletes out going into this season. In terms of in competition and on ice it’s as close to the real thing as you possibly can. The most exciting thing about that is that we are hosting in the United States and we are not having to leave the country to have this competition.”

Lake Placid is expected to host more events in the future. Meanwhile, USA Bobsled will return back to Mount Van Hoevenberg on Sept. 4 and 5 for the combination push competition. As of right now the athletes will continue to train in preparation for their next event.

“From here, people will probably take a few days rest, then start getting into active recovery again,” Volker said. “We’ll start combo pushes together, and working together based on the results today, and then we have next competition at start of September. That’s the next thing we have our eyes set on right now.”

According to McGuire, the USA Skeleton Push Championships, which is slated for Sept. 29 and 30 in Lake Placid will not be used to select the National team. The Skeleton push championships will be used to compare the athletes to their teammates and see where they rank in comparison to previous years.

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