Olympic champion Steve Holcomb and Olympic bronze medalist Elana Meyers began their Olympic seasons successfully, winning the first two-man U.S. bobsled selection races Saturday.
Holcomb, with Steve Langton, took the men’s event with a two-run time of 1 minute, 54.28 seconds. Nick Cunningham and Dallas Robinson were second (1:55.23), followed by Cory Butner and Chuck Berkeley (1:55.52).
Holcomb has a bye onto the national team based on last season’s results but competed anyway.
“I made a mistake the first time I had a bye by taking it too lightly and just going through the motions,” Holcomb said, according to a U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation (USBSF) release. “I didn’t feel ready for the competitive season because we didn’t rehearse race day. Today we did everything just like a race. It’s good practice since there isn’t any pressure to win.”
Holcomb and Langton were the 2012 world champions in the two-man. Butner and Cunningham were the second- and third-best U.S. pilots in the World Cup two-man standings last season and are favored to join Holcomb as Olympic team pilots.
Meyers, with Aja Evans, captured the women’s races in 1:57.21. Jamie Greubel and Katie Eberling followed in 1:57.92, and Jazmine Fenlator and Lolo Jones were third in 1:58.60.
Like Holcomb, Meyers has a bye onto the national team.
“I’m a slow starter,” said Meyers, the 2013 World Championships silver medalist. “I need some time to get back into it. It feels really good to get race experience, because race day is different than a training session. The adrenaline is higher, and you have to deal with the stakes-whether you win or lose. My goal is to get better every week and to continue improving my driving skills.”
The fourth-place team was an interesting pair — 2010 Olympian Bree Schaaf, coming back from hip surgery, and Lauryn Williams, a three-time Olympic sprinter who won silver in the 100m at the 2004 Games.
Meyers, Greubel and Fenlator were the top three U.S. pilots in the last World Cup season. The U.S. will likely qualify the maximum three women’s sleds for Sochi. Evans, Eberling, Jones, Williams and Emily Azevedo are considered the front-runners for three push athlete spots.
Azevedo did not compete in Lake Placid but is expected to be on one of the teams when selection races continue in Park City in two weeks.
The national team will be named Oct. 26 for the World Cup season, which begins Nov. 30 in Calgary. The U.S. Olympic team will be largely based on World Cup results.