Weather hampers bobsledders at Utah Olympic Park
Following the first run of Friday night’s four-man bobsled World Cup competition at the Utah Olympic Park, Parkite Steven Holcomb and his team of Frank Del Duca, Carlo Valdes and Sam McGuffie found themselves in fifth place, .1 seconds away from a podium spot.
But, as the second runs got underway, wind and snow at the top of the track made for some difficult conditions. Holcomb’s team was unlucky and had to take its second run in the middle of some of the night’s strongest winds, which the three-time Olympic medalist felt played a big part in his team’s fall from fifth to 16th place.
"We were in striking distance," a disappointed Holcomb said after the race. "We were only two-tenths out [of first place]. I think we could have dropped the push [time] a little bit, but obviously that didn’t happen in the second run. The weather is not playing friendly and it’s just making this an unfair race."
The Russian sled piloted by Alexander Kasjanov finished its two runs in 1 minute, 36.20 seconds to take the gold medal on Friday night. A German sled driven by Maximilian Arndt finished second in 1:36.24 and a Swiss team led by driver Rico Peter was third in 1:36.42.
In a sport that is often decided by mere hundredths of a second, Holcomb said he believes the adverse weather could have been handled differently.
"The winds are gusting unbelievably fast up there," he said. "We have to go and that’s not fair conditions. You can at least hold up the track and let it calm down, but they won’t do that and it’s really frustrating. We went from being in medal contention to last place. I had a great run driving, but we dropped almost 23 hundredths at the start. That’s insane."
Adding to Holcomb’s disappointment was the fact that the race was in Park City, a track he is intimately familiar with.
"I’m one of the best drivers on this track," he said. "This is my home track — I have more wins here than anybody. I had a great run — the drive was really good — we were just so far behind to start with because of the conditions at the top. We had no chance."
Meanwhile, U.S. driver Nick Cunningham led his team of Casey Wickline, James Reed and Sam Michener to a 12th-place finish to lead the three American sleds in the competition. Though he said weather was a factor in his team’s fall from eighth to 12th, he added that he didn’t have his best runs Friday night.
"You want to blame Mother Nature for everything, especially when you have a bad run," he said. "In a sport like this, everything matters — draw matters, runner selection matters, where you’re sitting matters. It all plays a part.
"I didn’t have two perfect runs. I had a number of mistakes and it cost me. My guys pushed me to great times, so we’ll take a personal victory with the pushing, but I need to work on my driving and get after it. You do the best you can. I wish I could have gotten my guys up there on the podium."
Holcomb’s squad bounced back a little bit on Saturday night, finishing seventh with a time of 1:36.64. Germany’s Nico Walther and his team took first in 1:36.38. Arndt and his team earned silver for the second night in a row in 1:36.40 and Swiss slider Rico Peter and his team again finished third, this time in 1:36.46. Cunningham and his team finished 13th in 1:37.18.
The sixth stop for the four-man bobsled World Cup athletes is Whistler, Canada. World Cup competitions will take place Jan. 22-23.
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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.