PARK CITY, Utah – Elana Meyers proved an Olympic gold medal is within reach at the upcoming Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games when she won the women’s bobsled world cup gold medal in Park City, Utah, Friday night.
It was Meyers’ first gold medal as a pilot, which she has been seeking since switching from brakeman to driver after she earned bronze pushing Erin Pac at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. Meyers earned two silver and two bronze world cup medals last season, along with world championship silver, but never any gold. She was pushed by second-year brakeman Aja Evans Friday night, who earned her first career gold medal.
“Today was super exciting to be able to come to our home track and get our first win,” Meyers said.
It was a victorious day for all three U.S. sleds, as Jamie Greubel paired with third-year brakeman Katie Eberling for a bronze-medal finish, and Jazmine Fenlator teamed with 2010 Olympian and veteran brakeman Emily Azevedo for fourth place.
Meyers and Evans were in second place after the first run, just 0.01 seconds behind Canada’s Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse, with Greubel and Eberling just 0.03 seconds out of first place. Humphries is the reigning Olympic, world and world cup champion, and Meyers knew it would be tough to beat her.
|Aja Evans and Elana Meyers gold medals for winning the women's
bobsled during the Viessmann IBSF Bobsled and Skeleton World Cup
event at Utah Olympic Park Dec. 6, 2013 in Park City, Utah.
“You just never know in bobsled, and that’s the exciting thing,” Meyers said. “I knew we had the run volume here and I knew we could overtake her here, and I knew she also had to put it together to come and get us. Fortunately for us she made a couple mistakes and we were able to come out on top.”
Meyers’ two-run total time was 0.13 seconds ahead of Humphries.
For the past few seasons, the U.S. women’s bobsled team has been saying they want to sweep the Olympic podium in 2014. With a 1-3-4 finish in Park City, it’s clear that a similar result is within reach for Sochi. However, all three U.S. pilots are only in their fourth season driving, which makes them fairly inexperienced compared to the international drivers they go up against week-to-week.
“We’re definitely showing the world don’t mess with us,” Fenlator said of Team USA’s Park City performance. “You may think we’re underdogs here and there, but nothing’s gonna hold us back. We are a tough group of girls and we’ve gone through things in sports and out of sports, and we’re hungry. We’re ready to go.”
Greubel’s bronze-medal finish marked her second consecutive world cup medal, after starting the season with bronze in Calgary, Alberta, last week, and third career world cup medal.
“I just take it one week at a time and try to work on my driving skills, and hopefully throughout the season it’ll build a good base going into Sochi,” Greubel said of her recent success.
Greubel began driving the same year as Meyers and Fenlator, but an injury suffered during a summer training accident would leave her out of the first half of the 2011-12 World Cup season; however, Greubel finally reached the world cup podium for the first time midway through last season when she earned silver in La Plagne, France.
She attributes her success this season to focusing solely on bobsled this past summer.
“The number one thing that I did this season was not work in the offseason,” Greubel said. “Bobsled’s a really expensive sport, and for many summers I had to waitress just to be able to afford to bobsled in the winter. So I made the decision to put 100 percent of my focus into my training, and figure out the financials along the way.”
This week’s race served as a comeback for Jazmine Fenlator, who started the season off with a rocky 15th-place finish with Lolo Jones. Fenlator proved she was one of the best drivers in the world last season by finishing in the top 10 in all but two world cup races, and earning her first two world cup medals.
Fenlator said one small mistake before the flat portion of the Calgary track set her back, but her fourth-place finish in Park City showed she “was up there where I believe and my teammates and coaches believe I should be.”
“I changed a lot of things this week,” she said. “Emily was a huge motivator and kept me calm. I definitely changed my pre-race game and how I prepare, and I think that helped me a lot this week.”
The women’s bobsled world cup season continues with a second Park City race Saturday, and then heads to Lake Placid, N.Y., for the final stop before a holiday break. The world cup resumes in January with four more races in Europe before the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.