The 2016-17 bobsled and skeleton world cup season kicks off this weekend, and there is no shortage of storylines on the 28-member U.S. team.
Women’s bobsled Olympic medalist drivers Elana Meyers Taylor and Jamie Greubel Poser will continue their rivalry for the top spot on the podium each week. Olympic champion Steven Holcomb is rediscovering the team speed and strength it’ll need to grab spots on the podium. And returning to the U.S. skeleton world cup team this year is three-time Olympian Katie Uhlaender, more determined than ever.
The world cup season, which begins Friday in Whistler, British Columbia, shows great promise after a 2015-16 season that landed Team USA 13 world cup medals.
The immediate goal is to gain some momentum toward the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
“For me, driving wise, I want to continue to learn as much as possible and continue to build towards Korea,” Meyers Taylor said, “and also a couple wins here and there wouldn’t be so bad, either.”
World Cup Drivers: Elana Meyers Taylor, Jamie Greubel Poser, Brittany Reinbolt
World Cup Push Athletes: Aja Evans, Lauren Gibbs, Briauna Jones, Kehri Jones, Lolo Jones
Olympic Experience: Meyers Taylor is a two-time Olympic medalist, having won a bronze medal in 2010 and then a silver medal in 2014. Greubel Poser and Evans teamed up for a bronze medal at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. And Lolo Jones is a three-time Olympian, competing twice in track and field and once in bobsled.
Outlook: The squad is highlighted by Meyers Taylor and Greubel Poser, who together won nine medals last season in a combined 12 starts.
Greubel Poser earned six medals in the eight world cup events (finishing fourth and sixth in the other two), including wins in Winterberg, Germany, and Lake Placid, New York.
Meyers Taylor, on the other hand, missed the middle half of the season while rehabilitating from lingering symptoms of a concussion she suffered the previous season. In her four world cup starts last season, she medaled in three, including wins in St. Moritz, Switzerland, and Koenigssee, Germany.
Meyers Taylor and Gibbs also combined to win a bronze medal in the 2016 world championships. That finish landed Meyers Taylor a spot on the world cup team, but she still teamed up with Gibbs and Lolo Jones to win two races at the team trials, while Greubel Poser won the other two with Evans and Gibbs.
“I want to continue to push the limits on the pushing side; we want to go out there and break every start record,” Meyers Taylor said. “We want to see how fast we can get, and I want to be able to do it with all of our brakemen.”
Reinbolt is on the world cup team as a driver for the first time. She won two medals last season in the North American Cup, as well as one this season.
World Cup Drivers: Codie Bascue, Steven Holcomb, Justin Olsen
World Cup Push Athletes: Adrian Adams, Frank Del Duca, Nathan Gilsleider, Christopher Kinney, Austin Landis, Sam McGuffie, Sam Michener, Luis Moreira, Jimmy Reed, Carlo Valdes, Evan Weinstock
Olympic Experience: Holcomb is a three-time Olympic medalist and three-time Olympian, while Olsen is a two-time Olympian who won a gold medal as a push athlete in Holcomb’s four-man crew at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
Outlook: The men’s team is a solid mix of experience and youth, balanced by Olympic medalists Holcomb and Olsen, and the impressive 22-year-old Bascue, a 2012 Youth Olympian who swept the four races in the national team trials. Bascue is on the national team for the third time as he aims for an Olympic debut next year in PyeongChang.
“This is amazing, I don’t have many words,” Bascue said after winning a four-man trials race with push athletes Del Duca, Adams and Kinney. “I think going into this season I’m going to feel confident, and confidence is a huge thing in this sport, especially going into the world cup.”
Holcomb had a strong preseason after battling injuries much of last season.
“It’s been a little bit of a process coming back from an injury last year,” Holcomb said. “It’s been a challenge to work around, but so far, so good. I’m going into this season stronger than I’ve been in a long time and faster than I’ve been in a long time.”
Valdes, Reed, Adams and Michener lead a group of returning push athletes. They return for their third season, while Weinstock, McGuffie, Gilsleider, Landis and Del Duca are on their second world cup team. Moreira and Kinney are on the national team for the first time.
Two-time Olympian Nick Cunningham was added as a four-person driver for the season-opening competition in Whistler, replacing Olsen, because of his experience on the challenging Whistler track. Olsen will still compete in two-man.
World Cup Squad: Annie O’Shea, Katie Uhlaender, Kendall Wesenberg
Olympic Experience: Uhlaender is a three-time Olympian.
Outlook: O’Shea, who finished fourth in the world cup standings last season, and Uhlaender lead a strong U.S. team as all three athletes aim for the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games.
The determination of the squad may be best represented by Uhlaender, a three-time Olympian and 2012 world champion who has come back from knee, hip and foot injuries, as well as a concussion, to earn a spot on the team.
This is her first time on the world cup team since the 2013-14 Olympic season.
She won two consecutive competitions in the national team trials.
“I want to be the best every day, I’m uber competitive,” said Uhlaender in early November. “Getting through these trials was a big feat of mine. I’m really tired, I haven’t had much rest, but that was all planned so that by the time the world cup came I would be ready to go. I’m really stoked with my team, I have such a great support system and I’m really excited to see what the season brings.”
Wesenberg, who became the first American woman to win a European Cup championship title in 2015, is entering her second world cup season after ranking 11th last season.
Uhlaender is not competing in the season opener in Whistler because she is ill. She was replaced by Savannah Graybill.
World Cup Squad: Matt Antoine, Nathan Crumpton, Kyle Tress
Olympic Experience: Antoine and Tress made their Olympic debuts at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, where Antoine won the bronze medal.
Outlook: Antoine, whose first world cup medal came in Whistler, the site of the season-opening competition this week, swept the trials competition after a strong offseason.
“I had a much better offseason of training this year and I’m coming into this season much faster and stronger and pushing where I know I’m capable of pushing,” Antoine said.
Crumpton had a strong series of trials races, as well, and Tress had a pair of third-place finishes to lock down his spot on the world cup team after not competing last season.
Paul D. Bowker has been writing about Olympic sports since 1990. He is Olympics editor and Assistant Sports Editor at the Cape Cod Times in Massachusetts. Bowker has written for TeamUSA.org since 2010 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.