IBSF NorAm Cup: American sliders show out in skeleton, less so in bobsled
Team USA’s North American Cup bobsled and skeleton teams finished the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation North American Cup with a strong showing in skeleton and two-person bobsled.
Mica McNeill piloted Great Britain to first place in the opening day of the women’s two-person bobsled competition. She and teammate Montell Douglas finished with a time of 1:40.44, while the Americans followed close behind as pilot Nicole Vogt and push athlete Terra King came in second with a time of 1:40.80. China’s Qing Ying and her teammate, Jiajia Huang, finished third with a time of 1:41.42.
Nick Cunningham, development team assistant coach for USA Bobsled, said Vogt is one of the team’s most experienced pilots on the NorAm circuit.
“She is right on the brink every year of making our World Cup team,” he said.
Unfortunately, her second race didn’t end well. She and her push athlete for the event, Yonni McGee, were disqualified when McGee didn’t get in the sled in time.
“She’s definitely going to use that as motivation in these next couple races, so hopefully we will see her on the World Cup and World Championships,” Cunningham said of Vogt.
With the Americans out of the second race picture, McNeill and Douglas took first (1:40.67), followed by Qing and Ma Yuanyuan in second (1:41.18), and fellow Chinese team Mingming Huai and Yinghui Tan in third (1:41.30).
Vogt was as close as any American got to the top of the leaderboard in bobsledding.
In the men’s two-person, Geoffrey Gadbois and Kristopher Horn – the top-placing Americans – took sixth with a time of 1:38.61, while Monaco’s Rudi Rinaldi and Boris Vain took first (1:37.47), Canadians Christopher Spring and Gabriel Chiasson came in second (1:38.10) and China’s Kaihzi Sun and Hao Shi took third (1:38.46).
Gadbois and Horn led the Americans in the second two-man race as well, finishing fifth with a time of 1:38.81. Monaco’s Rinaldi and Vain led again for first overall (1:37.87), followed by Spring for Canada, with push athlete Darren Lundrigan, in second (1:38.21), and Switzerland’s Michael Vogt and Alain Knusser in third (1:38.57).
Cunningham praised rookie driver Frank Del Duca for his performance, finishing ninth and 14th at his first NorAm competition, and at one point standing at third in the rankings.
“It just showed the talent he has and how good a career in the sport he is going to have,” Cunningham said Del Duca, who is in his first season as a pilot.
But Cunningham was less enthusiastic with the four-man bobsled results.
The four-man competition, in which the Americans finished seventh and ninth out of 10 teams in the first race, and fourth and fifth out of 10 in the second, was not what he had hoped for.
“I think we were humbled,” Cunningham said of the first race. “We were so focused on who was the fastest in training that we kind of got away from (the idea that) we’re not trying to beat our own country, we are trying to beat the world.
“We were flat out embarrassed in that first race.”
Rinaldi steered Monaco to a first-place finish in the first race, with a time of 1:36.14 – .92 seconds ahead of team USA’s leader, Hunter Church, in sixth, and 1.3 seconds faster than Gadbois’ in ninth.
The Americans did better in the second race, in which Church’s sled finished in fourth and Gadbois fifth. Dominik Dvorak led the race for the Czechs with a final time of 1:36.67. Church’s sled finished with a time of 1:37.07, while Gadbois finished with a time of 1:37.22.
Cunningham said the team rallied after the first race and had a “coming to heart” about what was required for the team to compete at the top level.
“You will work yourself off of this team in a heartbeat if you’re only giving 99 percent,” he said, summing up his message to the team.
Team USA fared better in skeleton than bobsled, with three of four first-place finishes going to the Yanks. Kelly Curtis led the women’s team with a second-place finish in the first skeleton race. She was beaten to first by .03 seconds by Leslie Stratton of Sweden. Stratton finished with a time of 1:41.67 while Curtis’s time was 1:41.70. Curtis was followed by teammates Sara Roderick in third (1:41.89), and Michelle Toukan in fourth (1:42.58).
Kurtis switched places with Stratton in the second race, finishing first with a time of 1:41.50, and outpaced Stratton by .57 seconds, who finished with a time of 1:42.07. Toukan finished third with a time of 1:42.35.
Andrew Blaser led the men’s skeleton for Team USA, finishing first in both of the two races. He started the competition with a 1:39.67 finish, outpacing Australia’s Nicholas Timmings, who finished just behind Blaser with a time of 1:39.86. Aaron Victorian III of Canada followed in third (1:40.32) with Max DeLance of USA taking fourth (1:40.45).
Blaser finished the second race in 1:39.44, enough for first again, with DeLance taking second (1:40.17) and Timmings taking third with a time of 1:40.30.
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