Bobsled and Skeleton Athletes Back on Track
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. - The combined bobsled, luge and skeleton track at the Olympic Sports Complex in Lake Placid, N.Y. opened for the 2008-09 season this morning. Over 100 bobsled and skeleton athletes will take their first run of the year on the 2009 World Championship track today in preparation for National Team Trials.
"It's great to be back in Lake Placid after a long summer," said Sepp Plozza, U.S. team head coach. "It's nice to see all 100 athletes on the track preparing for team trials. Tony Carlino [Manager Olympic Sports Complex] and his crew have provided us with great track conditions, and offer our team an opportunity to slide this early in the year."
Skeleton athletes were greeted with a snow covered start deck at 9:30 am for their sliding session. Several athletes were back on track after a year hiatus from the sport, including 2007 World Champion Noelle Pikus-Pace (Orem, Utah), 2006 Olympian Kevin Ellis (Dallas, Texas) and World Cup athlete Chris Hedquist (Washington, D.C.).
Hedquist recently celebrated his son, Kipling's, one-year birthday with wife Chelsea Hedquist before returning to the ice, while Pikus-Pace joined the team today for her first full season back after taking a year off to have her first child, daughter Lacee Lynne, with husband Janson Pace.
"I love being a mom," said Pikus-Pace. "I had no idea I would love it so much."
Pikus-Pace returned to the ice only two and a half months after giving birth to compete in the Lake Placid America's Cup competition last April.
"It doesn't feel like I slid in April," said Pikus-Pace. "It feels like it's been a year and a half since I've been sliding. It's nice to be on the track this early, because it gives us an advantage over other nations. Tony does a great job preparing the track for us, and we really need to thank ORDA for allowing us the opportunity to start our season this early."
Also returning to the team are 2006 Olympian Eric Bernotas (Avondale, Pa.) and 2007 World Cup Champion Zach Lund (Salt Lake City, Utah). Lund recently announced his engagement to girlfriend Brandy King.
"I've been thinking about taking her last name so I can be King Lund," said Lund with a laugh.
"The track crew did an amazing job getting the track ready, and this is probably the best ice we've ever had for the first day of sliding," said Lund. "We look forward to coming here for the first runs of the year because the ice is so good. I'm excited about this season. Last year was a letdown, which motivated me to train with a higher intensity over the summer."
Bobsled athletes will slide tonight in a session from 7-8:30 pm. Returning athletes include 2006 Olympic silver medalists Shauna Rohbock (Park City, Utah) and Valerie Fleming (Park City, Utah).
"I think everyone gets nervous the first day back," said Rohbock. "Last year the start house was so quiet before everyone took their first runs. I'm excited to start a new season, and I plan on taking it one race at a time to get back into the top three. My big goal for the year is to do well at World Championships so I can hear my national anthem on my home track."
"I'm excited about the season starting again," said Fleming. "You spend the summer training for this, and now you get to see the results from what you've done over the summer."
Steven Holcomb (Park City, Utah), the combined 2007 World Cup Champion, will begin the 2008-09 season with a new crew of push athletes.
"It feels like I had a week off and I'm going again," said Holcomb. "I'm not nervous yet, but I may be when we put the sled down and they clear the track."
"I guess it's like riding a bike," Holcomb said with a smile. "Only it's really fast, it tips over easier, and your buddy is riding in the back."
For more information about U.S. National Team Trials, please visit http://bobsled.teamusa.org/, or contact Amanda Bird, USBSF Marketing & Communications Manager, at email@example.com, or (518) 523-1842.
About the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation
The United States Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, based in Lake Placid, N.Y., is the national governing body for the sports of bobsled and skeleton in the United States. The USBSF would like to thank its sponsors, suppliers and contributors for their support: Allianz Life, Vilter Manufacturing, Speedo, CW-X, KBC Helmets and ULU Boots. The USBSF would also like to thank the following sponsors and suppliers for their partner, the Bo-Dyn Bobsled Project: Whelen Engineering, PPG, Columbia Sportswear and Racing Electronics. For more information, please visit the USBSF website at http://bobsled.teamusa.org/.