The 2017-18 skeleton season is now officially underway with the completion of the USA Skeleton National Push Championships at the Ice House on Monday in Calgary, Alberta.
Dakarai Kongela successfully defended the men’s title and Mystique Ro was crowned the new women’s champion.
Kongela, a former bobsledder now in his second year of skeleton, had a time of 4.64 seconds, well below the men’s standard of 4.85 at the Ice House and .06 seconds ahead of rookie Chris Strup, who came in second with a best time of 4.70. Austin Florian was third after coming in second last year. They were joined in the top six by Alex Ivanov, Kyle Brown and rookie Dan Barefoot. Two-time Olympian John Daly, who retired from the sport in 2014 but is continuing his comeback, finished seventh.
Ro, who ran track at Queens University of Charlotte (North Carolina), had pushes of 5.04 and 5.09 seconds for the first- and third-fastest times of the day, followed by last year’s champion, Megan Henry, and Kristen Hurley, who came in third for the second year in a row. Ro finished 11th overall at the Skeleton national championships last March, her first year in the sport, but had the fastest push start in three out of the four races.
They were followed by world cup medalist Annie O’Shea and rookie Michelle Toukan, tied for fourth, and a two-way tie for sixth between Gracie Clapp-Taylor and Meg Dovell.
The push championships are not mandatory, as they are in bobsled, and do not affect national team selection, but many of the nation’s best athletes do choose to compete. This year’s field included eight members of last year’s national team. Scores were based on the best two out of three runs.