Seizing a home track and technology advantage, American bobsledders and skeletoners ruled the Lake Placid, NY track at the FIBT World Cup competition this weekend.
Amidst the seven races where 21 podium places were at stake, Team USA snared five golds among 13 medals in a phenomenal showing that has been seldom matched by any country over the years.
Setting the pace for this this three-day event, which attracted the world’s best sliders, was Vancouver Olympics gold medalist Steve Holcomb, who drove his two-man and four man sleds to the top of the podium - trifecta style.
Holcomb, who earlier this season was still undecided about what manufacturer’s specially designed sled to drive, has solidified his decision.
For his two-man sled, his choice to run with a BMW-produced machine has paid-off for these dual races. Partnering with his pusher Steve Langton, and then Chris Fogt, he led the American contingent to a 1-3-4 result on Friday, and then a phenomenal 1-2-3 finish on Saturday. This sweep of the podium was an historic and emotional first for Team USA.
“I couldn't be more proud of the athletes. For them to realize the hard work that goes into this to pay off, it sets a great tone for the second half leading to Sochi,” praised Coach Brian Shimer.
Teammate Nick Cunningham piloted his BMW sled to bronze and silver medals wins on Friday and Saturday, respectively; while driver Cory Butner nabbed the bronze on Saturday.
Holcomb said, "Those guys keep me on my toes. Competition breeds excellence. They've worked hard and put a lot of hours in. To see them doing well is good."
Skeletoners Slide to Gold
With only four years of world cup tour experience, Antoine trumped his three previous bronze medal finishes with this Friday capstone race – outdistancing the field by .63 seconds. Teammate John Daly just missed the podium, settling for fourth – just .03 seconds from the bronze.
Pikus-Pace, a fourth place finisher at the Vancouver Olympics, is seeking to land a podium spot at the Sochi Olympics. Relying on a sled crafted by her engineer husband, she sledded to the gold, besting the field by almost a half-second in this two-run contest.
"It's amazing," Pikus-Pace said. "I've never won a race in Lake Placid or Park City until this year. I'm looking forward to racing again on Sunday."
For her second race, marking the last day of competition, she won the bronze – in a contest limited to just one run due to technical problems at the start which officials struggled to correct.
More Bobsled Success
Boosted by Holcomb’s two-man tear, the American women attacked the icy track on Saturday. Vancouver Olympics bronze medalist Elana Meyers, with support from brakewoman Lauryn Williams, navigated her BMW sled to a silver medal, a mere .12 seconds outside of first. Driver Jamie Greubel and sled-mate Katie Eberling won the bronze. Jazmine Fenlator and her push-athlete Emily Azevedo settled for fourth – capping off a American 2-3-4 result long to be remembered.
Reflecting on this dominance, Meyers said, "I think it says a lot about where we are as a program right now. We are firing on all cylinders, equipment is running well and brakemen are fast."
Concluding this stellar weekend, Holcomb steered his “Night Train 2,” four-man sled to victory on Sunday. This marvel machine, an upgrade in technology from the infamous Vancouver Olympics Night Train, blazed down this labyrinth of a track. Right from the start of each run, the three pushers: Curt Tomasevicz, Langton, and Fogt gave their driver an unbeatable edge he never relinquished.
"Things are starting to come around," said the modest Holcomb. "Today's win is definitely because of our push, and that is what kept us in the mix.”
Holcomb is the odds-on favorite to medal in both events at the Sochi Olympics. At this halfway mark in this Sochi Olympics qualifying season, he has one every race to date, among the three world cup stops.
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