USA bobsled, skeleton start selection races in Lake Placid
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (AP) Jamie Greubel Poser and Aja Evans were Olympic medalists when they last teamed up, and after nearly three years apart they quickly recaptured that form.
Greubel Poser and Evans won both heats during the opening day of the USA Bobsled National Team Trials on Sunday, a big step for both to return to the World Cup circuit this winter. They were 0.19 seconds better than Elana Meyers Taylor and Lauren Gibbs in the first competitive race of the season on wintry Mount Van Hoevenberg.
The last time Greubel Poser and Evans raced together was the Sochi Olympics in February 2014, when they were bronze medalists.
''We felt great today,'' Greubel Poser said. ''Our timing was spot on. Overall, today was great and the snow actually helped make it feel like bobsled season was really here.''
Winter came quickly to the Adirondack Mountains. The track opened Monday, then closed Tuesday as temperatures rose into the 70s - and then a winter storm struck this weekend, dropping several inches of snow on some parts of the area and bringing high winds that knocked out power.
Meyers Taylor has a bye onto the national team based on her accomplishments last season, as does women's skeleton athlete Annie O'Shea. No other U.S. slider has a bye, and that's what makes the trials in Lake Placid and the upcoming races in Park City, Utah so significant.
''I'm really impressed with the start of the season this year,'' USA Bobsled coach Brian Shimer said.
In men's bobsled, where it shapes up as four drivers competing for three World Cup spots, Codie Bascue paired with Chris Kinney and prevailed in 1:53.43 - just edging Justin Olsen and Evan Weinstock (1:53.58), Steve Holcomb and Carlo Valdes (1:53.62) and Nick Cunningham and Nathan Gilsleider (1:53.88).
For the drivers, the results of trials are critical. Push athletes are selected for the World Cup team in a more subjective process.
''There's so many good guys right now,'' said Bascue, who won a team trials race for the first time. ''And one through four being so close, we really push each other and make each other better.''
In men's skeleton, World Cup veteran Matt Antoine was dominant - his two-run time of 1:49.75 was well ahead of second-place Nathan Crumpton (1:51.23). Antoine had the fastest two starts of the day, setting the tone for his easy win.
''I haven't pushed that fast in a couple years, and that was a little bit of a relief, just to see that I'm back on the right track,'' Antoine said. ''When you walk to the line and you know you're going to be fast at the start, it helps everything else from there on down.''
O'Shea, even though her World Cup spot is secure, competed anyway and won the first trials race in women's skeleton in 1:53.56 - just 0.05 seconds ahead of Savannah Graybill.
''Racing your teammates is the hardest thing we do,'' O'Shea said.
Third place in both skeleton races went to returning veterans who are back on the ice. Kyle Tress took last season off and returned this fall with hopes of getting back on the men's national team, and three-time Olympian Katie Uhlaender was a comfortable third in the women's race Sunday.