CALGARY, Alberta (AP) Steven Langton and Aja Evans came home with medals from the Sochi Olympics, and are now well on their way to getting the chance to compete for more hardware in Pyeongchang this winter.
Langton and Evans were the winners of the U.S. bobsled push championships Thursday, the first official competition of the Olympic sliding season.
Langton did his two pushes in 10.01 seconds, edging Evan Weinstock's time of 10.02 for the men's crown. Evans set a Calgary Ice House women's record with a push of 5.39 seconds, part of her two-run time of 10.83 and a narrow win over Olympic veteran Lolo Jones.
Langton and Evans both took long breaks from sliding after the Sochi Games. Langton hasn't competed internationally since those Olympics, and un-retired in February. Evans returned to sliding last season, teaming with Jamie Greubel Poser to win a bronze medal at the world championships three years after they combined for a bronze in Sochi.
''I'm not as good as I was in 2014 yet, but it's coming,'' said Langton, who was in Steven Holcomb's sled for two bronze medals in Sochi.
Langton returned in large part to have the chance to compete with Holcomb again, and decided to continue his comeback even after Holcomb - the longtime leader of the U.S. team - was found dead in his sleep at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, New York, in May. Holcomb had prescription sleeping pills and alcohol in his system, according to a toxicology report.
Now, it's Langton who will be assuming a leadership role.
''Steve has been awesome to train alongside this summer and he sets the standard for us all, and he's going to greatly improve our team,'' Weinstock, who was second at the push championships for the second consecutive year, said of Langton. ''I'm trying to get as close as possible to him.''
Nathan Weber was third in the men's event in 10.10 seconds and 2014 Olympic bronze medalist Chris Fogt was fourth in 10.14. Like Langton, Fogt is sliding again after a three-year layoff.
Jones, the longtime U.S. hurdles star who also was part of the 2014 Olympic bobsled team, finished her two pushes in 10.97 seconds. That was just good enough for second, with Lauren Gibbs finishing in third at 10.98.
The push championships continue Friday with the driver competition and end Saturday with driver-brakeman combination events. The push championships are part of the process to determine who will get national-team nods in October, and move a step closer to Olympic selection.
''We are so deep in talent, it's going to be a big problem for the selection committee when it comes time to name teams,'' U.S. national team coach Brian Shimer said. ''If I'm going to have any problem in the world, I'd rather have too much talent than too little. It's going to be another exciting year.''