The U.S. bobsled team was on top of the world after claiming gold and bronze medals at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. Yet the current roster is stronger, faster and hungrier for gold than ever before.
The U.S. has continued a tradition of transitioning winning brakemen into winning drivers, which has resulted in start records around the world due to powerful contributions off the block from strong pilots.
It wasn’t immediately evident who would emerge as Team USA’s next medal contender after the Vancouver Games. Now, one year away from the 2014 Games, it’s difficult to choose just one, as all six pilots in the program have medaled in world cup competition. Ranking teams as USA-1, USA-2 and USA-3 has become a difficult task with crews exchanging positions on the podium each week. The goal for the men and women to sweep the podium in Sochi is becoming a reality.
The U.S. is also collaborating with sponsor BMW on sled technology. A sport contested to the hundredths of a second not only requires the most skilled pilots and most powerful push athletes in the world, but also the fastest sled. BMW has already delivered a two-man bobsled prototype to the U.S. team, and the two organizations are collaborating with the athletes and coaches to create the best equipment in the world.
The Olympic bobsled competition will consist of four runs held over a two-day period, with two runs completed each day. Medals are awarded based on total time over the four runs, with the winner having the lowest overall time. If two teams complete the competition in a tie, they are awarded the same place. The program features three events, including men’s and women’s two-person competitions and the men’s four-man event.
The bobsled competition will be held at the Sliding Center Sanki, a 9,000-seat facility situated at the Alpika Service Mountain Ski Resort with a finishing area at Rzhanaya Polyana. State-of-the-art ice preparation technology ensures optimum temperature control along the entire length of the track.
- USA Bobsled is home to seven athletes and coaches who also serve as soldiers in the Army’s World Class Athlete Program, including Nick Cunningham, Chris Fogt, Mike Kohn, Tuffy Latour, Justin Olsen, Dallas Robinson and Shauna Rohbock. Fogt served in Iraq for one year immediately following the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games before returning to competition.
- Steven Holcomb’s autobiography, But Now I See, reveals how the 2010 Olympic champion struggled with depression while facing potentially career-ending blindness leading up to the Vancouver Games. In the book, Holcomb recounts a failed suicide attempt to let the millions of people living with depression know that they can be successful with treatment.
- Several well-known track & field athletes have transferred their skills to the ice track as bobsled athletes. Lolo Jones and Tianna (Madison) Bartoletta medaled in their first world cup bobsled competition. Battling back from an injury, Hyleas Fountain spent some time on the North American and European Cup circuits and will also be a contender for the U.S. Olympic Team.
- All three men’s and women’s teams are capable of posting the fastest start times at any track around the world. For the first time in the program’s history, the push crew on USA-3 is equal to the power and strength of USA-1. The goal for the Sochi Games is for the U.S. men’s and women’s teams to sweep the podium.
- Six of the nine athletes on the 2012-13 women’s bobsled roster are African-American, representing the most ethnically diverse team in the history of the sport.
ATHLETES TO WATCH
Butner began the sport as a brakeman, but it quickly became evident that he had the skillset to become a driver. He took the D-rings in 2010, and just two years later is expected to challenge Steven Holcomb for gold in the two-man event. Butner started the 2012-13 season with two silver medals, while and has posted a handful of the fastest times in various runs throughout the season.
Cunningham competed as a brakeman in 2010 for driver Mike Kohn before transitioning to the pilot position later that spring. Cunningham and Butner competed against each other during the North American Cup tour, and their competitive friendship fostered two of the best pilots to emerge from the circuit. While Butner is claiming medals in the two-man event, Cunningham has been raking in medals in the four-man races.
Fenlator wowed the international scene when she claimed silver with Lolo Jones in the 2012-13 season opener. Her family struggled after losing its home in Hurricane Irene, and she has proven over and over again that she can persevere and overcome any obstacle. Fenlator is still learning the nuances of driving, but once she has a track dialed in, she will be a top contender for the medal stand.
Greubel was on the same track of success as Elana Meyers and Jazmine Fenlator, but a devastating injury sustained during a summer training accident kept her from competing during the first half of the 2011-12 season. If anything, the break made her hungrier for success as she watched her teammates succeed. Greubel came back as a tour de force, and has already joined her teammates on the world cup medal stand.
Holcomb is arguably the most well-known bobsledder in the world. In November 2012, he teamed with Steve Langton to win the two-man bobsled world cup title in Lake Placid, N.Y. The winning duo then combined with Justin Olsen and Curt Tomasevicz to win the four-man bobsled title, making Holcomb the first pilot in U.S. history to win both events. The only feat remaining on the veteran’s sliding resume is the two-man bobsled Olympic gold medal, and he is favored to sweep with his powerhouse push crew in Sochi.
After claiming the 2010 Olympic bronze medal with driver Erin Pac, Meyers decided to continue the program’s history of turning winning brakemen into winning pilots. After just a few weeks of driving experience, Meyers was named to the World Cup Team. Always poised, Meyers rapidly emerged as a medal contender as she navigated tracks around the world. She teamed with Katie Eberling to crush start records at nearly every track they competed on, and went on to win the bronze medal at the 2012 World Championships.
Nations will qualify based on international standings during the 2013-14 season. The U.S. is guaranteed one spot in the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, but can qualify up to three in each gender based on points during the qualification period that ends Jan. 19, 2014. In both men’s events, a total of 30 crews will compete, while the women’s competition will include 20 crews.
The selection criteria will be finalized in early 2013, but athletes will likely qualify based on international points. For example, if the U.S. qualifies two women for the Sochi Games, then the top-two U.S. women in international points will qualify for the Olympic Team.
|Feb. 11-17||World Cup||Sochi, Russia|
|October||Team selection races|
|November-February||World Cup races|