Team USA cleans up at NorAm Cup
In bobsled, a sport where races are often decided by mere hundredths of a second, any sort of mistake, no matter how small, can spell disaster for a driver.
Speeding down the track at 80 miles per hour, drivers and their crews must be in perfect harmony to complete a winning run.
On Saturday morning at the Utah Olympic Park, driver Katie Eberling and teammate Kristen Hurley held a lead of only .08 seconds over Canadians Alysia Rissling and Kasha Lee through one of two runs in the North American Cup women’s two-man bobsled race. During their second run, though, disaster nearly struck.
Eberling and Hurley were steadily building their lead and eyeing a gold medal when, coming out of one of the final turns on the 2002 Olympic track, they hit a wall and nearly tipped over. However, Eberling managed to regain control and pilot the sled across the finish line, maintaining the sled’s narrow .08-second margin over the Canadians to finish in first place.
Eberling said she was able to minimize the potential damage of the near-crash because she had been smooth through the upper portion of the track.
"I had a really solid run going into that spot, but it made it very, very interesting nearly going over," she said. "In this sport, you kind of have to roll with the punches and leave mistakes in the past. I was able to finish the run strong. Minus [the near-crash], it was a pretty solid run."
Eberling and Hurley finished with a two-run total time of 1 minute, 41.46 seconds. Rissling and Lee finished in 1:41.51. Americans Nicole Vogt and Seun Adigun earned bronze medals with a time of 1:41.69.
Due to Saturday’s warm, sunny weather, Eberling said the track conditions were tricky. But, she added, the crew at the UOP did the best they could under the circumstances.
"It’s super warm," she said. "The track crew has done an awesome job keeping the ice consistent and doing their best to do that under these conditions. It’s definitely not ideal with the weather as nice as it is, but the track crew is doing a good job keeping it a fair race."
For Eberling, who competed at a couple of World Cup competitions this season, coming to the NorAm Cup in Park City was a great way to improve her driving as she tries to earn more World Cup starts next year.
"I’m still a new driver and learning with every race," she said. "The more races I can get in, the better driver I’ll be and the more experience I’ll have."
Racing in Park City is also a big confidence booster, Eberling added.
"Coming back to a familiar track is always nice," she said. "That takes a little bit of the pressure off and helps you relax. It’s always nice to come back to home. I train mostly in Lake Placid, but spend a good amount of time here. I probably have more runs here than on any other track."
In the first women’s two-man bobsled race on Friday afternoon, Vogt and Adigun finished in first place with a time of 1:41.12. Rissling and Lee again took second, this time with a total time of 1:41.17. Eberling and Hurley finished third in 1:41.22.
In the men’s two-man contests, American driver Codie Bascue won both Friday and Saturday’s races with the help of teammate Nathan Gilsleider. Bascue’s winning time on Friday was 1:38.19. Team Canada’s Nick Poloniato and Daniel Sunderland finished second in 1:38.32. Poloniato also finished second to Bascue on Saturday, with Bascue’s time of 1:38.29 nearly half a second better than Poloniato’s mark of 1:38.74.
In Sunday’s four-man bobsled race, American Justin Olsen and his crew of Brent Fogt, Luis Moreira and Evan Weinstock finished in first place with a two-run time of 1:37.26. Bascue and teammates Gilsleider, David Cremin and Adrian Adams finished second in 1:37.34.
Bascue and his crew found their way back to the top of the podium on Monday afternoon, though, winning the final bobsled event of the week’s NorAm Cup over Olsen’s team. Bascue’s time of 1:37.58 bested Olsen’s mark of 1:37.90 by .32 seconds.
NorAm Cup races continue this weekend when the skeleton athletes take to the track. Both Friday’s and Saturday’s men’s and women’s competitions begin at 10 a.m. at the Utah Olympic Park.
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Park City is the lone undefeated team in Region 10 play after a 60-30 win over Mountain View. The Miners have three more region games in their quest to repeat as region champions.