Steven Holcomb wins first selection race
The first snowfall of the year welcomed the USA Bobsled Team at Mount Van Hoevenberg in Lake Placid, New York, Saturday morning for the first national team selection race of the season. Jamie Greubel Poser (Newtown, Pa.) teamed with Lauren Gibbs (Los Angeles) to kick-start the season with a win in the women’s race, while Steven Holcomb (Park City) and Carlo Valdes (Newport Beach, Calif.) were victorious in the men’s race. Athletes are racing to be in one of three sleds per gender named to the national team.
"It was a cool feeling to come out to the track with it snowing, it made it feel like this is really the beginning of the season," Greubel Poser said. "It was 70 degrees on Monday and snowing today, but the track crew has done an amazing job creating great ice conditions for us despite whatever the weather is throwing their way."
Olympic bronze medalist Greubel Poser teamed with Gibbs for a total time of 1 minute, 55.73 seconds to win the women’s race by 0.33 seconds. The duo raced to the finish in 57.86 and 57.87 seconds to hold off the competition.
"Lauren and I were excited to get after it and we were really happy with our push times," Greubel Poser said. "Lauren improved a ton from her rookie season last year, and we both lost a lot of weight over the summer, so it feels good knowing we can lose the weight and still be in better shape than we were. Getting the confirmation that our hard work in preparation for the new weight rule is working out is a confidence boost."
During the offseason the International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation voted to reduce the maximum permitted combined weight for sleds and crew in women’s bobsledding by 30 kilograms (66 pounds), and the change will be phased in over the next two seasons.
"I spent time here last spring doing testing and it was great having the opportunity to slide without any pressure," Greubel Poser said. "That time that I put in allowed me to come into this season ready to go and this is one of the best feelings I’ve had at the start of a season."
Two-time Olympic medalist Elana Meyers Taylor (Douglasville, Ga.) already has a spot secured on the national team after earning a bye from a dominant 2014-2015 season, which was highlighted by World Championship and World Cup titles. Meyers Taylor partnered with first-year competitor Kehri Jones (Killeen, Texas) Saturday for second place with a combined time of 1:56.06 after sliding runs of 57.91 and 58.15 seconds. The duo matched the start record, 5.42 seconds, which was set by Meyers Taylor at last year’s World Cup event.
"I’m excited for the new season and it’s definitely going to be a whole new set of challenges," Meyers Taylor said. "With our weight changes, it’ll be interesting to push the envelope with speed but also take the necessary precautions to control the lighter weight. My goals are to build the skills necessary to be where I want to be in 2018 in PyeongChang. Winning a world championship and a world cup title is always a goal for everyone in the sport, myself included. Four-man is going to present new challenges, and starting off the year with team trials in Lake Placid is going to be the first one."
Meyers Taylor was one of just two women’s pilots to compete in the four-person discipline last season, which was reserved for only men before last season. She is expected to compete in the four-person selection race next weekend.
Brittany Reinbolt (Searcy, Ark.) teamed with reigning World Champion push athlete Cherrelle Garrett (Hayward, Calif.) for third. Reinbolt and Garrett posted times of 58.87 and 59.39 seconds for a total of 1:58.26.
Three-time Olympic medalist Holcomb teamed with second-year competitor Valdes for identical runs of 56.21 seconds to lead the men’s field by 0.57 seconds with a combined time of 1:52.42.
"It felt good, especially since I wasn’t quite sure I would make it back in time for the start of the season," said Holcomb, who had some additional treatments to his Achilles this offseason for a lingering issue sustained at the 2014 Sochi Games. "I wanted to come out here and push hard, and it felt good to go at it."
Holcomb has been in the program for 18 years, and he joked that getting back on the ice and driving a bobsled isn’t like riding a bike; it’s just like driving a bobsled.
"Everybody gets nervous for the first run of the season, because you’re not sure how scary it will be after so many months off," Holcomb said. "I get that way too, but as soon as I get into the sled on that first run I feel like I’m in my second home. All those feelings and sensations that I’ve developed over the last 18 years come flooding back, and I’m able to calm down and get comfortable."
Holcomb said he’s impressed with the progress the returning push athletes have made since their rookie season last season and excited about how quickly the new athletes have assimilated.
"There’s a huge difference seeing last year’s rookie class compete this year," Holcomb said. "They’ve all improved, and this year’s rookie class is eager and hungry to earn a spot. Generally speaking, we’re back on track and I think we’ll be major contenders again."
Nick Cunningham (Monterey, Calif.) and James Reed (Garmisch, Germany) were comfortably in second place with a two-run total of 1:52.42 after clocking times of 56.43 and 56.56 seconds.
Codie Bascue (Whitehall, N.Y.) teamed with Nic Taylor (Hayward, Calif.), who is returning to the sport after a brief hiatus, for third place. Bascue and Taylor finished in 56.51 and 57.06 seconds for a combined time of 1:53.57.
Bobsled racing continues Saturday, Oct. 24, with the second men’s two-man and women’s bobsled competitions. The four-person bobsled race will take place Sunday, Oct. 25, before the national team is named. For a complete schedule of events, please visit USABS.com .
Park City Mountain Resort is scheduled to start limited summer operations on Saturday, including the operation of PayDay lift for hikers and bikers.