KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia - Nick Cunningham teamed with Adam Clark, Alex Harrison and James Reed to lead Team USA in the four-person bobsled World Cup finale in Sochi, Russia Sunday with a seventh place finish.
“We finished one-hundredth of a second from getting a paycheck today thanks to a driving error I made,” Cunningham said, who piloted the Bo-Dyn built original Night Train bobsled. “That hurts, but the good thing is that we found a great team and I’m starting to get my confidence back. This has been one of the hardest years I’ve ever had, and I’ve really been struggling with my confidence. I used to pride myself in being consistent and we started the season strong. I feel like it went downhill after I hit that hat. I still have it, and I’m burning it. It’s not going with us on tour anymore.”
Cunningham kicked off the season with a bronze medal performance in the two-man event on home ice in Lake Placid, N.Y., despite running over a spectator’s hat that had fallen into the track. Cunningham scooped up the hat, which was attached to his runner, put it on his head before doing interviews and has kept the hat with him on tour. He’s struggled to crack into the top 10 ever since.
“It has to go,” Cunningham said. “I’m hoping it will help us get a fresh start mentally. I started the season strong, and I want to end strong at World Championships. If we do well in World Championships, I think we can forget the rest of the season really quickly.”
Cunningham, Clark, Harrison and Reed powered the sled to push times of 4.84 and 4.83 seconds, putting them amongst the top three teams off the block. Cunningham guided the crew to the finish in 55.39 and 55.73 seconds for a combined time of 1:51.12. The top six teams were awarded prize money in Sochi, and the team finished just 0.01 seconds out of contention in seventh.
Cunningham finished his World Cup season ranked 12th in four-person bobsled rank with 978 points.
Latvians Oskars Melbardis, Daumants Dreiskens, Arvis Vilkaste and Janis Strenga took the victory by a mere 0.02 seconds with a total time of 1:50.03. Russians Alexander Kasjanov, Ilvir Huzin, Aleksei Pushkarev and Aleksey Zaytsev led after the first heat, but the team fell back into second in the final run. Kasjanov missed gold by the mere blink of an eye with a combined time of 1:50.05. Germans Maximilian Arndt, Alexander Roediger, Ben Heber and Martin Putze claimed bronze in 1:50.67.
Switzerland’s Peter Rico, who claimed his first World Cup victory in yesterday’s two-man bobsled competition, was in the running for a bronze medal, but the team crashed midway through the second run. The sled and crew crossed the finish line in 15th.
Melbardis claimed the four-person season trophy with 1735 points. Kasjanov finished second in overall rank with 1494 points, and Arndt earned 1410 points to finish third in standings.
Three-time Olympic medalist Steve Holcomb and his crew of Carlo Valdes, Justin Olsen and Sam Michener finished ninth with a two-run total of 1:51.52. Holcomb, in Bo-Dyn’s AdvoCare-branded Night Train 2, clocked start times of 4.93 and 4.90 for runs of 55.83 and 55.69 seconds, respectively. Holcomb, back at the site that saw him win two Olympic bronze medals one year ago, capped the season ranked seventh overall in four-man standings with 1224 points.
Elana Meyers Taylor teamed with Casey Wickline, David Cremin and Adrian Adams in the Classroom Champions sled for 13th place with a combined time of 1:52.44. The crew pushed competitive starts of 4.99 seconds in both heats for runs of 56.26 and 56.18 seconds. It was only the second time Meyers Taylor has driven a four-person bobsled in a World Cup race. She made her World Cup debut as a four-person pilot in Calgary, Canada earlier this season, where she finished 16th.
Codie Bascue raced in six of the eight four-person World Cup races and collected 682 points.
The season will conclude at the World Championships in Winterberg, Germany from Feb. 23-March 8.
1. Melbardis, Dreiskens, Vilkaste and Strenga (LAT) 1:50.03 (54.86, 55.17); 2. Kasjanov, Huzin, Pushkarev and Zaytsev (RUS) 1:50.05 (54.78, 55.27); 3. Arndt, Roediger, Heber and Putze (GER) 1:50.67 (55.20, 55.47);…7. Cunningham, Clark, Harrison and Reed (USA) 1:51.12 (55.39, 55.73);…9. Holcomb, Olsen, Valdes and Michener (USA) 1:51.52 (55.83, 55.69);…13. Meyers Taylor, Wickline, Cremin and Adams (USA) 1:52.44 (56.26, 56.18);