USA Bobsled athletes earn 11 medals in six races and qualify third Olympic four-man sled in North American Cup tour finale
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (Jan. 12, 2018)- Hunter Church (Cadyville, N.Y.) and his team of Brent Fogt (Alpine, Utah), Lou Moreira (Somerville, Mass.) and Sam Michener (Gresham, Ore.) showed poise under pressure Sunday morning and won the final North American Cup (NAC) four-man race to help Team USA qualify its third four-man sled for the upcoming 2018 Olympic Winter Games. In all, USA Bobsled collected 11 medals in six races and nabbed the tour’s overall two-man title to finish out the 2017-2018 NAC season on a high note.
The 21-year-old Church went into Sunday’s race needing a win to qualify the third sled, and performed beyond his years. He said it was one of the most important races of his career.
“There was definitely anxiety mounting throughout the race,” Church said. “I just kept reminding myself that I was doing what I love and to have fun. Just the fact that we were able to accomplish what we were able to accomplish is overwhelming.”
Church, Moreira, Fogt and Michener powered their sled to a 5.33-second start, fastest of the heat, in their first run. Church then navigated the sled to a downtime of 54.66 seconds, his personal best by more than a second. Between heats, the crew sat in first place by three-quarters of a second.
Meanwhile, two-time Olympian Nick Cunningham (Monterey, Calif.) and his crew of Chris Kinney (Stockbridge, Ga.), Hakeem Abdul-Saboor (Powhatan, Va.) and Nic Taylor (Colorado Springs, Colo.) were seeking a podium finish to collect points towards Olympic qualification. Cunningham posted a 56.08-second downtime in the first run and sat in sixth between heats.
In the second run, Cunningham, Kinney, Abdul-Saboor and Taylor clocked a start time of 5.10 seconds and threw down the fastest run of the heat, 54.53 seconds. The crew surpassed four sleds before falling behind Team Church, who recorded a 54.92-second downtime to take gold with a total of 1:49.58. Team Cunningham earned silver in 1:50.61, while Jian Jiu of China earned the bronze with a combined time of 1:50.73.
“Hunter is a very selfless athlete, a selfless competitor,” Cunningham said. “He’s all about his team, all about Team USA, and it shows. He did everything he could this whole season to make sure that USA has the best chance to take three sleds to the Games. Knowing that he’s on our side, I feel pretty good going into races. He’s a huge asset to this organization.”
In addition to Sunday’s dramatic finish, USA Bobsled athletes had a solid weekend, led by pilots Kristi Koplin (Park City, Utah) and Geoff Gadbois (Milton, Vt.), who each won two medals. Gadbois also earned the NAC overall two-man title after winning four gold medals this year.
“It’s definitely been my best season so far,” Gadbois said. “I’m really happy with two-man, not quite as happy with four-man, but that’s just how it goes sometimes. We had injuries that held us out of races, but that’s just the sport. I was definitely happy to come back here, it’s always a great feeling to win on your home track and hear the National Anthem play over and over again during the awards ceremonies.”
Team USA took gold and silver in the weekend-opening women’s bobsled race. Nicole Vogt (Dallas, Texas) and Nicole Brundgardt (Norfolk, Neb.) threaded together downtimes of 58.02 and 58.20 to take gold. Vogt, who has had a stellar season on NAC, ranked second overall on the tour.
“I'm so grateful for the opportunity to represent my country, for the six different brakewomen who raced with me this season and for every person who encouraged me to stick with it this year,” Vogt said. “This season didn't start as planned, but ending with a win on home ice feels great. The camaraderie at the track this week has been fun as each nation is giving a final effort to qualify for the Olympics.”
Koplin and Kyle Plante (Colonie, N.Y.) clocked the fastest start time of the first heat, 5.58 seconds, en route to a 58.02-second downtime, tied with Vogt for the lead. Koplin’s second run, which she completed in 58.31 seconds, was second-fastest of the heat behind Vogt and dropped her back to silver.
In the opening two-man race, Gadbois and Fogt recorded the fastest downtime of each heat for a 1:54.07 two-run combined downtime and the gold medal. Chunjian Li and Sidong Wang of China took silver in 1:54.38 while Church teamed with rookie Josh Williamson (Lake Mary, Fla.) for bronze with a 1:54.66 downtime. Church and Williamson next plan to travel to St. Moritz, Switzerland for the IBSF Junior World Championships.
To round out Team USA’s results, Dustin Greenwood (Palmyra, Va.) and Adrian Adams (Reidsville, N.C.) combined for starts of 5.23 and 5.28, fourth fastest of each heat, to finish 12th in 1:57.47. Tyler Hickey (Geneva, Ill.) paired with Chris Walsh (Seattle, Wash.) for 13th place in 1:58.66. The race was just Greenwood’s second since switching to driving and was Hickey’s first international competition.
Koplin, this time racing with Brundgardt, pulled out the win in the second women’s competition, posting a combined downtime of 2:01.87 to claim victory. Their start times of 5.60 and 5.65 seconds were fastest of each heat. Yooran Kim and Miran Shin of Korea took silver in 2:02.34, while their teammates Seonhye Lee and Minseong Kim earned bronze in 2:02.45.
“This season has been a roller coaster of emotions, results and experiences,” Koplin said. “I have learned so much as a pilot and cannot have asked for a better team of brakemen and coaches to help with this season's journey. I am so blessed to be a part of the U.S. Army's World Class Athlete Program, which has made it possible for me to compete. Winning gold and silver in the final two races and pushing fast with Kyle and Nicole was like icing on the cake for this Olympic season. Although it did not go as I would have hoped, I look forward to what's in store for USA women's bobsled. We have a lot of talented and motivated athletes and it'll be fun to continue forward with this momentum into next season.”
The second two-man race saw Gadbois, racing with Frank Del Duca (Bethel, Me.), win by 0.15 seconds, threading together downtimes of 58.95 and 59.30 for the gold medal. Church and Moreira took second with a two-run combined time of 1:58.40, while Edson Bindillati and Edson Martins of Brazil earned the bronze in 1:58.74. Greenwood teamed with Adams and Hickey raced with Walsh once again to take 11th and 12th, respectively, for Team USA.
The first four-man competition of the weekend saw Cunningham, Abdul-Saboor, Kinney and Michener take gold with a combined downtime of 1:50.13. The crew posted the fastest start time of each heat, 5.08 and 5.07 seconds, to top Church, Fogt, Moreira and Taylor, who took silver in 1:51.14. Bindilatti, Odirlei Pessoni, Erick Gilson and Rafael Souza took bronze in 1:51.29 for Brazil.
“Going into this as my third Olympic go-round, I know the importance of points and coming down and getting as many as possible,” Cunningham said. “So far, all three of my Olympic berths have come from last-second NAC races. So I take these races very seriously and that’s helped us hopefully solidify a spot on the Olympic Team.”
The 2018 U.S. Olympic Men’s Bobsled Team will be announced tomorrow morning.
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Women’s Bobsled Race #1
1. Nicole Vogt and Nicole Brundgardt (USA) 1:56.22 (58.02, 58.20);
2. Kristi Koplin and Kyle Plante (USA) 1:56.33 (58.02, 58.31);
3. Yooran Kim and Minseong Kim (KOR) 1:57.09 (58.36, 58.73);
Two-man Bobsled Race #1
1. Geoff Gadbois and Brent Fogt (USA) 1:54.07 (56.83, 57.24);
2. Chunjian Li and Sidong Wang (USA) 1:54.38 (56.92, 57.46);
3. Hunter Church and Joshua Williamson (USA) 1:54.66 (57.14, 57.52);
12. Dustin Greenwood and Adrian Adams (USA) 1:57.47 (58.58, 58.89);
13. Tyler Hickey and Chris Walsh (USA) 1:58.66 (59.02, 59.64);
Women’s Bobsled Race #2
1. Kristi Koplin and Nicole Brundgardt (USA) 2:01.87 (1:00.54, 1:01.33);
2. Yooran Kim and Miran Shin (KOR) 2:02.34 (1:00.92, 1:01.42);
3. Seonhye Lee and Minseong Kim (KOR) 2:02.45 (1:01.07, 1:01.38);
4. Nicole Vogt and Kyle Plante (USA) 2:03.72 (1:01.50, 1:02.22);
Two-man Bobsled Race #2
1. Geoff Gadbois and Frank Del Duca (USA) 1:58.25 (58.95, 59.30);
2. Hunter Church and Lou Moreira (USA) 1:58.40 (59.22, 59.18);
3. Edson Bindilatti and Edson Martins (BRZ) 1:58.74 (58.93, 59.81);
11. Dustin Greenwood and Adrian Adams (USA) 2:02.72 (1:00.58, 1:02.14);
12. Tyler Hickey and Chris Walsh (USA) 2:03.75 (1:01.32, 1:02.43);
Four-man Bobsled Race #1
1. Nick Cunningham, Hakeem Abdul-Saboor, Chris Kinney and Sam Michener (USA) 1:50.13 (55.00, 55.13);
2. Hunter Church, Brent Fogt, Lou Moreira and Nic Taylor (USA) 1:51.14 (55.47, 55.67);
3. Edson Bindilatti, Odirlei Pessoni, Erick Gilson and Rafael Souza (BRZ) 1:51.29 (55.50, 55.79);
5. Geoff Gadbois, Adrian Adams, Frank Del Duca and Josh Williamson (USA) 1:52.27 (56.09 56.18);
Four-man Bobsled Race #2
1. Hunter Church, Brent Fogt, Lou Moreira and Sam Michener (USA) 1:49.58 (54.66, 54.92);
2. Nick Cunningham, Hakeem Abdul-Saboor, Chris Kinney and Nic Taylor (USA) 1:50.61 (56.08, 54.53);
3. Jian Jin, Yancun Mu, Sidong Wang and Kaizhi Sun (USA) 1:50.73 (55.42, 55.31);
About USA Bobsled & Skeleton
USA Bobsled & Skeleton (USABS), based in Lake Placid, N.Y., is the national governing body for the sports of bobsled and skeleton in the United States. USABS would like to thank its sponsors, suppliers and contributors for their support: BMW of North America, Under Armour, Kampgrounds of America, Thorne, Boomerang Carnets, Hudl Technique, Tesa Tape, PVS International, Ferris Mfg. Corp, Stress Engineering, Machintek, deBotech and Carpenter. For more information, please visit the USBSF website at www.usabs.com.