Top sledders and sliders on World Cup circuit return to UOP |

Top sledders and sliders on World Cup circuit return to UOP

Christopher Kamrani, The Park Record

After a year off from the FIBT World Cup bobsled and skeleton tour, the Utah Olympic Park is primed to host the second stop of the 2012-13 World Cup circuit this weekend.

According to Jennifer Clarke, public relations and projects manager for the Utah Olympic Park, every track in the world gets a World Cup event three out of every four years, and 2011 was the UOP’s bye year.

This year, Clarke said employees and sliding fans alike are ecstatic to welcome back the World Cup circuit.

"We do miss having the FIBT World Cup the year they’re not here," she said. "We do miss those athletes."

Among "those athletes" scheduled to make the trek to Park City this week are Park City’s own gold medal bobsled driver Steven Holcomb, who is coming off a World Championship double earlier this year, and Summit County planner Kimber Gabryszak, who is on the women’s skeleton circuit.

Thanks to the inclusion of track & field Summer Olympians Lolo Jones and Tianna Madison on the American women’s bobsled team this year, interest in the sport is gaining steam this year, but Jones and Madison will not be in town this week due to the rotating of the American pushers. Emily Azevedo and Aja Evans will be powering the American bobsleds this week.

"We get a lot more attention and we get a lot more media coverage during World Cup events," Clarke said. "It’s really exciting and I think all of those pieces, with Steve Holcomb doing so well in the past few years and being from Park City, and with Kimber being so involved with the community and being on the team, it adds a new level of excitement — having these other athletes (Jones and Madison) recognized, they’re bringing a whole new exposure to the sport, which is really great."

Other notable sliders will be 2010 U.S. Olympic athletes John Daly (men’s skeleton), Katie Uhlaender (women’s skeleton) and Elana Meyers (women’s bobsled). This is the last full World Cup season before next year’s qualifications for the Sochi, Russia 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

According to a release, more than 200 athletes representing 22 nations will be on hand this week. The athletes began training Tuesday and training runs are scheduled to run through Thursday.

Clarke said the Olympic Park will start festivities Wednesday night with a kick-off party for athletes, officials and volunteers. New this year will be the World Cup Festival, which is scheduled to run from 3 to 7 p.m. on the lower loop of the UOP track Friday and is free to the public. The festival, designed to promote fan involvement, will feature campfires, s’mores, popcorn and glow sticks. On Saturday, Clarke said the festivities will feature the Winter Adventure Courses open with a special $20 rate.

All training runs and races are free to the public.

"We’re definitely all really busy," Clarke said. "We all kick it up a lot in the weeks leading up to (the World Cup). Right now everybody is on full speed."

In last weekend’s World Cup opener in Lake Placid, N.Y., the American women’s bobsled teams won silver and bronze medals. Pilot Jazmine Fenlator and Jones made the jump from sixth place after the first run into a silver-medal finish. Elana Meyers and Olympic gold medal sprinter Madison claimed bronze.

In the men’s four-man bobsled, Holcomb and his team finished second in the opener, while pilot Nick Cunningham’s group finished third.

"I finally get to go home," Holcomb said in a release. "I haven’t been home in a while, so I’m excited."

The FIBT World Cup schedule is as follows: Friday, Nov. 16: women’s skeleton, 9 a.m./10:30 a.m.; two-man bobsled, 1 p.m/2:30 p.m.; women’s bobsled, 5 p.m/6:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17: men’s skeleton, 9 a.m./10:30 a.m.; men’s four-man bobsled, 1 p.m./2:30 p.m.