KOENIGSSEE, Germany – Altenberg and Koenigssee. It doesn’t get much more difficult than that on back-to-back weekends in the sport of bobsledding.
These are two of the most difficult tracks in the world, but there is greater familiarity among American pilots Steve Holcomb and Nick Cunningham in the latter of the two courses.
Holcomb, in fact, captured the Koenigssee four-man race a year ago in his Bo-Dyn built Night Train 2 sled. A month later, he drove that some craft to an Olympic bronze medal in Sochi. With some new push athletes, the triple Olympic medalist and five-time World Champion will strive for the podium once again in his AdvoCare-branded sled.
“They made some changes in the chicane,” said the Park City, Utah resident. “We started to figure it out. We’re gonna nail it. (Thursday) training went really well. We had a great start and good load (into the sled). We can drive this thing down to another victory. It went pretty well today so I think it can happen.”
Cunningham, Holcomb’s teammate, remains on the D-rings of the original Night Train sled that Holcomb piloted to the Olympic gold medal in Vancouver. There may be no driver hungrier for success that the Monterey, Calif. athlete. Cunningham, too, will have some new crew members.
USA coaches have switched up the teams in the pursuit of the right combinations. Reports are the same from other nations who are re-tooling with new athletes. Russia, in fact, is into its fifth driver on tour, shuffling pilots in and out of the various circuits.
Meanwhile, Switzerland, Latvia and Germany remain virtually intact from last season.
The demanding Koenigssee layout, which runs along the foot of Watzmann Mountain in this beautiful Bavarian resort, is the oldest artificially refrigerated course in the world. It was updated two years ago in conjunction with Munich’s 2018 Winter Olympic bid. That effort did not materialize – the 2018 Winter Games will be held in South Korea – but the athletes in the sliding sports have reaped the benefits of the upgrades.
The track features a series of “S” turns in the upper section, followed by a chicane (more like a bent straightaway), then several quick labyrinth-like curves that lead into the 360 degree Kriesel turn. Thereafter sleds will negotiate several additional long radius corners leading to the finish.
While a great push and fast sled technology are certainly needed in Koenigssee, this is a true driver’s track which will reward the best on race day.
Bobsled and skeleton fans can follow the action live on www.FIBT.com.
Universal Sports will broadcast the World Cup races via same day delay. The women’s skeleton and bobsled events will air at 4 and 5 PM ET, respectively, on Friday.
Men’s skeleton and two-man bobsled competitions will air at 4 and 5 PM respectively, on Saturday, and the four-person bobsled race will air on Sunday at 4 PM.