LAKE PLACID - The U.S. team collected 14 medals at the Olympic Sports Complex this weekend in the America's Cup event.
Several rookie athletes competed this weekend in an effort to increase the U.S. program's depth of talent in a push towards 2014.
"I'm really happy with the way everyone conducted themselves," said Mike Kohn, a two-time Olympian and America's Cup bobsled coach. "This is a hard working group, and the team represented their nation well. It was a great experience for me to be here, too. It's an honor to coach these athletes, and I'm proud of them all."
USA sliders Jazmine Fenlator and Jaqueline Borstock make their way down the track Saturday at the Olympic Sports Complex in Lake Placid. The duo swept the women’s two-man bobled races.
(Photo — Bob Sweet)
Rebecca Sorensen was named to the World Cup team this year, but elected to coach the America's Cup skeleton team to help expand the program. She had four new athletes competing in their first-ever race in Lake Placid.
"In an effort to get the numbers on our team increased, the Olympic Regional Development Authority had put a lot of energy into the development pipeline," Sorensen said. "Thanks to their partnership with our federation, we have been able to provide our newest qualified athletes race opportunities like this one."
The U.S. squad collected five gold, four silver and five bronze medals in Lake Placid. The U.S. America's Cup team has won 23 medals so far this season, and will be eager to continue their medal streak next week in Calgary, Alberta.
Jazmine Fenlator teamed with rookie push athlete Jacqueline Borstock to sweep the women's bobsled races. While there weren't enough participants in the competition to qualify teams for points, the race did earn several athletes qualification into future races.
Fenlator and Borstock claimed double gold with a combined time of 1:57.34 in the first race and two-run total of 1:56.14 in the second competition to establish dominance on their home track.
Canadian Jennifer Ciochetti, a former World Cup push athlete turned driver, teamed with Tamara Dixon to claim silver medals on both days. The duo slid total times of 1:57.52 and 1:56.55.
Jamie Greubel took advantage of the extra ice time in Lake Placid as preparation for her World Cup tour as a driver. Greubel competed in only the first competition with rookie brakeman Sineaid Corley to finish third with a total time of 1:57.97 before boarding a plane to St. Moritz, Swizterland. Greubel will compete in the St. Moritz Europa Cup and World Cup events.
Phoebe Burns of Lake Placid returned to competition this weekend with a new fan trackside to cheer her on. Her son, Jackson, turns one on Feb. 11 and was bundled up to cheer on mom this weekend. Burns said he's already walking and "working on his 30-meter time."
Burns owns and manages three restaurants in Lake Placid, and retired from sliding last season. She was asked to enter the competition to help fill out the field, and Burns was grateful for the opportunity.
"I was happy to get the opportunity to get on the ice," Burns said. "We have a lot of new talent. Jamie and Jazmine are doing amazing as drivers, and it was fun competing against my old sledmates. The passion for bobsledding never goes away, unlike strength and speed, which need maintenance."
Burns and local athlete Kathryn Wilson of Keene were fifth the first day, but Burns rebounded in the second competition to win bronze with Corley after posting a combined time of 1:57.88.
"The women did great," Kohn said. "But I'm a little disappointed we didn't have a bigger field. We need women bobsledders. If there is anyone out there that wants to try the sport, we'll take a look at you."
Pilots Cory Butner and Nick Cunningham collected a medal in every men's bobsled race this weekend to contribute eight medals to the overall count.
Butner competed in his final domestic race before he boards a plane to meet up with the squad in Europe to make his World Cup debut.
"This was a good confidence booster weekend," Butner said. "I can't thank everyone enough for helping us out this week. I'm really excited to get some additional opportunities to race overseas, and I'm looking forward to the new challenges."
Butner started the Lake Placid event by winning silver in the first two-man race with a total time of 1:52.33 with brakeman Mike Snyder. Butner teamed with Johnny Quinn in the second two-man race to win gold with a two-run total of 1:51.82.
The up-and-coming driver continued his medal streak through the weekend into the four-man competitions, where he claimed double silver medals. Teamed with Snyder, Quinn and Jim Carriel, Butner slid combined times of 1:51.03 and 1:51.49 to finish second in both four-man races.
"My push crew did an awesome job giving me momentum at the start, and I'm really happy," Butner said. "I love to slide, so it's good to be back on ice after the break. I'm starting to get a good feeling for the four-man, and this was a great way to start off the second half."
Cunningham wasn't far off Butner's pace in the four race series, finishing one spot behind his teammate each day. Cunningham teamed with rookie Dallas Robinson, who showed immediate promise in the sport by powering the sled off for some of the fastest start times of the competition. The pair slid combined times of 1:52.06 and 1:52.90 for silver and bronze medals in the two-man races.
Cunningham just began learning to drive a four-man sled after the holiday break. The 2010 Olympian was right on pace after just a few weeks of experience. Teamed with Robinson, Kameron Hart and Paul Joran, Cunningham piloted his sled to two bronze medal performances. The crew accumulated times of 1:52.96 and 1:52.68 to finish just behind Butner's USA I team.
"I have a great crew," Cunningham said. "They trusted me enough to ride with me in my first four-man races ever. Hopefully I can keep chipping away at the beat. Mike Kohn helped me fix some things to help me find some time, and hopefully we can come back and win some races. I'm really excited to see where this goes."
Teenagers Codie Bascue and Jake Peterson piloted their two-man sleds to qualification for Junior World Championships, which take place in Park City, Utah next month. The young drivers give depth to a growing U.S. program.
Bascue teamed with Hart for eighth- and sixth-place finishes after posting total times of 1:54.99 and 1:54.50. Peterson finished ninth and seventh with brakeman Colin Coughlin after clocking combined times of 1:56.33 and 1:57.20.
Junior athlete Bryan Berghorn of Lake Placid was on the cusp of the medals in the four-man event, finishing fourth behind Cunningham in both events with two-run totals of 1:53.08 and 1:53.30.
"It was a long day, but I had four good runs," Berghorn said. "I felt consistent. My team only had four runs on the track before this, so it was a good day."
Chris Spring from Canada claimed double gold in the four-man events by 0.72 seconds in the first race and by over a second in the final contest. Spring was behind the U.S. squad in the two-man event, finished off the podium on the first day and third in the second race. Russian pilot Nikita Zarharov surprised the field by claiming gold in the first two-man event by 0.19 seconds over Butner.
Katie Uhlaender of Breckenridge, Colo. has spent six months of the last year on crutches. Despite the seemingly constant roadblocks in her path, Uhlaender was able to post two of the fastest start times over the two days of racing.
Uhlaender joked that maybe her legs were taken away from her so that she would be forced to focus on driving and not rely so heavily on her start times.
"The basics keep changing," Uhlaender said. "It's like reading a poem when you're 6 and reading the same poem when you're 20. There's a different emotion, but you're reading the same words. That's what sliding is like. You can slide the same track over and over, but it tells you a different story every time."
Uhlaender learned the sport in Lake Placid, and had no trouble picking up the story where she left off. The two-time Olympian pushed identical start times of 5.65 seconds for runs of 56.36 and 56.79 seconds in the first race. Uhlaender won gold by only 0.05 seconds with a total time of 1:53.15.
Uhlaender came from behind in the second race to win gold again with a combined time of 1:53.26. The former World Cup champion will compete in the Whistler, British Columbia Intercontinental Cup next week, returning to the site of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games for the first time since last February.
"I had a plan the last Olympic quad and it was foiled by life," Uhlaender said. "The biggest lesson is to keep believing in yourself, persevere and never give up. I've had help from everyone around me to learn these lessons, and I look forward to finally being healthy and seeing what I'm capable of doing."
Lanette Prediger of Canada challenged Uhlaender in a highly contested race for gold. Prediger claimed double silver with combined times of 1:53.20 and 1:53.92, while Canadian teammate Jaclyn Laberge was third with totals of 1:54.71 and 1:54.40.
Corinne DiPietro was named to the America's Cup circuit after competing in her first team selection race this fall. DiPietro finished seventh in both races with total times of 1:58.06 and 1:57.50.
Megan Henry and Kristina Hull only have a few weeks of sliding experience under their belts, but were granted an opportunity to race.
Henry showed her promise for a successful future in the sport after posting the fastest start times in the first competition of 5.65 and 5.61 seconds. The rookie finished ninth and eighth in the two day event with combined times of 1:58.66 and 1:57.97.
Hull was 10th both days with two-run totals of 1:59.77 and 1:58.54. Hull and Henry will continue their learning curve in next week's Calgary America's Cup.
Tom Santagato led the U.S men's skeleton team with fourth- and fifth-place finishes. Still a rookie himself with only one year of sliding experience, Santagato was pleased with team USA's result.
"I think it went really well," Santagato said. "In both races I was able to keep my down times relatively consistent from the first heat to the second heat and I think that really helped me finish where I did. Overall, I think the U.S. team had a really good showing at these races, especially since the majority of the athletes were racing in their first international competitions."
Santagato slid two-run totals of 1:51.89 and 1:51.92. The young athlete was within the top three push times both days, and relied on the experience of veteran athletes to guide him through the experience.
"It's an honor to be leading the U.S. squad on the America's Cup circuit, but it definitely wouldn't be possible without the help of our veteran sliders," Santagato said. "They continue to be a great help and really do a great job of assisting us along the way. It really makes for a true team atmosphere and ensures that we, as a nation, will continue to be a force in the skeleton world."
Canadian Greg Maidment claimed gold the first day after posting a total time of 1:51.11. Japanese athletes Yuzuru Hanyuda and Hiroyuki Bamba finished second and third with combined times of 1:51.25 and 1:51.41, respectively.
Hanyuda nabbed gold in the second race with a total time of 1:51.04. Maidment was second in 1:51.11, and David Greszczyszyn from Canada claimed bronze with a two-run total of 1:51.72.
Adam Moore spent the first half of his first full season sliding on the Europa Cup circuit, and returned to Lake Placid to kick start 2011 with an America's Cup race. Moore celebrated his 25th birthday on Friday, and was excited to have the opportunity to compete on his home track. Moore finished sixth both days with total time of 1:52.25 and 1:52.09.
"While I fell short of the top three, I feel content," Moore said. "I earned my best results of the year this week, which is a great way to conclude my international sliding season."
The morning of the second competition Moore was browsing his favorite social networking site and read a few comments from friends who were "stuck in the office," and "dreading life."
"While I feel sorry for their anguish, I can't help but be excited when I consider my unique lifestyle," Moore said. "My job is to become the best slider, athlete and teammate I can be. I'm enjoying every minute of it."
Rookie athletes Greg West and Tyler Micheli were granted their first chance to compete internationally in the Lake Placid event. West finished 12th the first day with a total time of 1:53.95, and rebounded in the second competition with an eighth place finish after clocking 1:52.67.
Micheli finished 11th and 10th with two-run totals of 1:53.76 and 1:53.32, respectively.
"The rookies raced well this week," Moore said. "I'm a novice myself so I can relate to the nerves and excitement the newcomers felt this week. They handled the pressure and nerves admirably. Regardless of their finish position, they proved they are talented individuals and have earned their spot on the circuit. Their dedication and determination will prove to be a great motivator for our entire federation as we continue to push towards 2014. I firmly believe success is a grassroots movement from the lower tiers pushing the athletes in front of them to be better."