FIBT eliminating 3rd sled in Olympics, world championships
GHENT, Belgium (AP) Nations will now be able to enter only two sleds at the Olympics and the world championships in bobsled and skeleton, after the sport's ruling body voted Monday to cap the fields.
The changes will first take effect at the 2017 world championships. They would also be enacted for the 2018 Pyeongchang Games if the International Olympic Committee approves of the plan, which is expected.
Stronger nations such as the U.S. and Germany have traditionally gotten three sleds into the fields at worlds and the Olympics in all bobsled and skeleton disciplines. And while this move won't affect the number of entrants in World Cup competition, it could be a step toward inclusion of a new discipline - four-women bobsled - at the top competitions.
''If it's going to help the women's sport and we can actually increase numbers, then I'm all for it,'' said U.S. women's bobsled pilot Elana Meyers Taylor, a two-time Olympic medalist and the current top-ranked women's driver. ''But if we're not, if we're just doing this as a theory, then I think we need to go back to the drawing board.''
Also Monday, the FIBT voted to reduce the maximum permitted combined weight for sleds and crew in women's bobsledding by 30 kilograms (66 pounds). That change will be phased in over the next two seasons.
''We're not talking about a huge game-changer where you'd have to build a new sled and all the current athletes are no longer relevant,'' USA Bobsled and Skeleton CEO Darrin Steele said. ''It's not nearly that severe. But it will narrow the gap and there will be some adjustments.''
In other news, the FIBT has announced that homologation - a major step toward internationally certifying the track - has been scheduled at the Pyeongchang track from Feb. 29 through March 8, 2016. A select number of sliders from around the world will be invited to test the track and give feedback.
The World Cup season for bobsled and skeleton opens in November at Altenberg, Germany. Other World Cup stops this year include Winterberg and Konigssee, Germany; Lake Placid, New York; Park City, Utah; Whistler, Canada and St. Moritz, Switzerland. The world championships are in Igls, Austria, from Feb. 8-21, 2016.
AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this story.