LAKE PLACID - Just a second-year driver, American bobsledder Elana Meyers finds herself in contention for a world championship medal with some of the most experienced and successful pilots in the history of the sport.
Meyers, who hails from Douglasville, Ga., came up with a big-time performance Friday on the opening day of the 2012 FIBT Bobsled and Skeleton World Championships in Lake Placid to take hold of third place with two runs remaining in the four-heat event.
Showing explosiveness at the start, Meyers and her brakeman, Katie Eberling, had the quickest push times in each of Friday's two runs, which helped the pair turn in fast trips down Mount Van Hoevenberg's mile-long track. Ahead of Meyers are 2010 Olympic champion Kaillie Humphries of Canada and Germany's Sandra Kiriasis, the most decorated athlete in women's bobsledding.
USA 1 driver Elana Meyers and her brakeman Katie Eberling push their sled to begin the second of their four runs Friday.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
"I'm glad to be sitting in third place," Meyers said. "Katie's pushes were amazing today. To be in the hunt for a world championship medal along with the best in the sport, that's pretty exciting. Now it's time to get ready for tomorrow. I'm just going to try to relax and enjoy the experience."
Humphries and her partner Jennifer Ciochetti put down the two fastest runs of the day to take the lead, and Kiriasis joined push athlete Petra Lammert to move into second place. Humphries and Ciochetti have what could be considered a huge lead in bobsledding. They turned in runs of 57.10 and 57.07 seconds for a 1:54.17 total, which is more than four-tenths of a second ahead of Kiriasis, who has a 1:54.58 combined time.
Meyers and Eberling were most impressive on their first run, a 57.22 result that had them standing in second place, just .12 off Humphries' leading time.
Meyers said her second run wasn't as clean as she would have liked, and it ultimately dropped her and Eberling back into third place. Their second-run time of 57.45 gave them a 1:54.67 two-heat total, which is still just .09 behind Kiriasis and nearly a quarter second ahead of the fourth place sled - Germany 1 - piloted by Cathleen Martini.
"As a second-year pilot, I was just looking to put four solid runs together," Meyers said. "I didn't do that. My second run was pretty sloppy, but I'm still right in there. I made some mistakes, including a major mistake on Curve 2 that took away our velocity from a great push. Hopefully, I can clean that up on the next two runs."
The women's World Championship field featured 17 sleds from eight different nations. The U.S. has three sleds competing. Rookie driver Jazmine Fenlator is currently ninth and 2010 Vancouver Olympian Bree Schaaf stands in 12th place.
Driving USA 3, Fenlator teamed up with Ingrid Marcum to turn in a 1:55.33 combined time, which is 1.16 seconds behind the leader. Schaaf and brakeman Emily Azevedo put down two runs that totaled 1:55.64.
Meyers, who won an Olympic bronze medal as a push athlete at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, said she is thrilled to be sliding on her home track on home soil for the World Championships. Among the fans cheering her on were her mother and father, Jan and Eddie Meyers.
"Elana has always been a great athlete. She was an all-American softball player, and she wanted to go to the Olympics for softball," Jan said. "When they dropped softball from the Olympics she had to find another sport, and it just happened to be bobsled.
"I'd love to see her win a medal, but that's not my main concern," Jan added. "I just want her to get down the track safe. If she can do that, it's cool."
The first two heats of the men's two-man bobsled kick off today at Mount Van Hoevenberg. A field of more than 25 sleds are expected to compete, with the first run slated to go off at 9 a.m. The third and fourth women's runs are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. and will be followed by an awards ceremony and a fireworks display.
Steve Holcomb, a four-man Olympic gold medalist, will team with defending world push champion Steve Langton as they attempt to claim the first ever two-man world championship title for the United States.