Growing pains, learning gains for USA on St. Moritz natural track
Photo by GianCarlo Cattaneo/FotoSwiss
ST. MORITZ, Switzerland - Team USA struggled in the four-person bobsled World Cup in St. Moritz, Switzerland Sunday with 12-14-15 place finishes. Codie Bascue and his push crew of Alex Harrison, Adam Clark and David Cremin were the top U.S. finishers in 12th.
“We’ve had a long reign as the team to beat,” said Brian Shimer, U.S. bobsled head coach. “Sometimes it’s good to know what it feels like to not be on the podium to get motivated and get better. Everyone is staying positive and the team knows it’s going to take a lot of hard work to get better, and everyone is up for the challenge. We want to win every race, and it’s hard to swallow when we’re not, but we’re learning from these experiences.”
Bascue, Harrison, Clark and Cremin clocked starts of 5.10 and 5.13 for runs of 1:05.91 and 1:05.49, respectively, in the Classroom Champions wrapped sled.
“Codie has been a nice surprise this season,” said Shimer, who raced in five Winter Olympics and won the four-person bronze medal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. “He’s made some great gains as an athlete and he’s helping push the veterans on the team. When I was driving I didn’t have anyone pushing me for a long time until Todd Hays came along, and then it motivated me more than anything else to have someone chomping at my heels, and I got better because of it. Codie is only 20 years old and he’s hungry to be here.”
Latvian Oskars Melbardis teamed with Daumants Dreiskens, Arvis Vilkaste and Janis Strenga for a combined down time of 2:09.73 to claim gold. Germany’s Franesco Friedrich claimed silver in 2:09.91 with his crew of Gregor Bermbach, Martin Grothkopp and Thorsten Margis. German teammates Maximilian Arndt, Jan Speer, Alexander Roediger and Martin Putze rounded out the podium in third with a two-run total of 2:10.11.
Three-time Olympic medalist Steve Holcomb raced alongside Olympic champion Justin Olsen, Sam Michener and Carlo Valdes for 14th place. The crew posted starts of 5.09 and 5.10, and Holcomb piloted his Bo-Dyn built Night Train 2 sled to the finish in 1:05.94 and 1:05.49. Holcomb’s team had some trouble loading into the sled and the crew had low velocity entering the first corner.
Holcomb drew start number 2, which everywhere else is an advantage, except in St. Moritz where the course speeds up as the heat progresses on the all natural track built from ice taken from Lake St. Moritz.
He also hit the wall out of curve one in the final run and scrubbed precious time.
“The start is really short this year, so you have to be quick to load and the timing has to be precise,” Shimer said. “Once again this is the first race with this combination of guys as we mix it up each week trying to find which athletes gel together.”
Nick Cunningham his crew of Aaron Victorian, James Reed and Adrian Adams, in the original Bo-Dyn Night Train sled, pushed start times of 5.10 and 5.11 seconds for runs of 1:05.89 and 1:05.62, respectively. Their combined down time of 2:11.51 placed them in 15th. Like the other two U.S. teams, this was the first time this combination of athletes has raced together.
“We have a lot of rookies this season and these guys are getting some World Cup experience competing against the best in the world,” Shimer said. “They see what they are up against and it’s making everyone really eager to improve as they learn the sport.”
But the struggle wasn’t reserved just for the Americans. A number of teams left the resort of the privileged disappointed, including the North American squads. It’s been decades since Canada and the USA had no sleds in the top 10 in four man competition.
Canadian Kaillie Humphries, the women’s bobsled double Olympic champion, was the sole female pilot in the four-person race. Switzerland’s Beat Hefti made history with two female push athletes on his crew today, a first since the international federation announced the four-person discipline gender neutral this fall.
The four-person race concludes the St. Moritz World Cup. The tour moves on to La Plagne, France for the sixth of eight stops.
1. Melbardis, Dreiskens, Vilkaste and Strenga (LAT) 2:09.73 (1:05.18, 1:04.55); 2. Friedrich, Bermbach, Grothkopp and Margis (GER) 2:09.91 (1:05.24, 1:04.67); 3. Arndt, Speer, Roediger and Putze (GER) 2:10.11 (1:05.36, 1:04.75);…12. Bascue, Clark, Harrison and Cremin (USA) 2:11.40 (1:05.91, 1:05.49); 14. Holcomb, Olsen, Valdes and Michener (USA) 2:11.43 (1:05.94, 1:05.49); 15. Cunningham, Victorian, Reed and Adams (USA) 2:11.51 (1:05.89, 1:05.62);