Kate Hansen

U.S. bobsled, luge, skeleton continue World Cup selection races

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Several Olympic hopefuls took steps toward Sochi on Sunday and Monday.

The biggest strides came in luge in Park City, Utah, where the fall World Cup teams were named following the final selection races Sunday.

Kate Hansen, sliding with a broken bone in her right foot, completed a sweep of the women’s races to boost her chances of making the U.S. Olympic team.

The 2008 world junior champion said she “T-boned” a wall in training Wednesday, saying she cried and it was the hardest crash of her career.

“Obviously, no one wants to break their foot, but I’m capable of things that I never thought I would be capable of,” Hansen said in a USA Luge interview. “Whether or not the Olympics happen or any of this works out, I think I’ve proven some things to myself and some people that I can do it.”

Hansen is joined on the fall World Cup team by 2010 Olympians Erin Hamlin and Julia Clukey and by Summer Britcher. For the men, 2010 Olympian Chris Mazdzer also swept selection races and is joined by Taylor MorrisJoe Mortensen and Tucker West on the World Cup team.

The doubles World Cup teams are Matt Mortensen and Preston Griffall, Jake Hyrns and Andrew Sherk and Christian Niccum and Jayson Terdiman.

The first luge World Cup is Nov. 16-17 in Lillehammer, Norway, and USA Luge will name its Olympic team in mid-December. It’s expected to be three women, three men and two doubles teams.

In bobsled, 2010 Olympic four-man champion Steve Holcomb finished a sweep of two-man selection races Sunday night in Park City. Holcomb teamed with Chris Fogt one week after riding with Steve Langton.

Holcomb, who was pre-qualified for the World Cup team, completed two runs in 1 minute, 37.20 seconds. Nick Cunningham and Dallas Robinson were second (1:37.55), and Cory Butner and Chuck Berkeley were third (1:37.62).

“I know I need to step up my game because the other drivers are stepping up theirs,” Holcomb said, according to a U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation press release. “This is shaping up to be a solid team trials. We’ve been analyzing the new BMW sleds and making some changes along the way, and hopefully we’ll have it all figured out so we’re ready to go even faster by the time we’re back here for the World Cup.”

It marked the same order of pilot finishes as the first set of selection races in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Oct. 12, leaving a clear picture for three likely U.S. Olympic spots.

The bobsled selection races will finish in Park City on Friday and Saturday with the final women’s race and the men’s four-man races. The national team for upcoming World Cup races will be named Oct. 27. The first World Cup is Nov. 30 in Calgary.

In skeleton, Noelle Pikus-Pace and Matthew Antoine won the first of four national team selection races in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Monday.

Pikus-Pace, the 2013 world silver medalist and a 2010 Olympian, posted runs of 56.80 and 56.45 seconds to finish a comfortable 0.92 seconds ahead of second-place Annie O’Shea in 1:53.25.

“The first week back is always a little nerve-racking,” Pikus-Pace said, according to a USBSF press release. “We are off of the ice for six months, so everyone is anxious to see where they stack up and where off-season training has put them. It’s nice to get the first trips down the track out of the way so we can all look forward to the competitions. After 10 years of sliding, it comes back pretty quickly, but I still feel the butterflies the beginning of each new season.”

Antoine clocked times of 54.81 and 55.20 for a total of 1:50.01, .96 ahead of second-place John Daly, a 2010 Olympian. He feels better after a 2012-13 season hampered by recovery from knee surgery.

“I’ve had one focus and one goal, which was to get back to where I was physically and to get my head back into the game, and I’ve kept my head down working towards that,” Antoine said. “I’ve worked on getting faster and stronger, and never doubted my sliding ability. I want to be my best in Sochi. Last year didn’t go well for me and part of me feels like I’m undervalued heading into the season. Now I can concentrate on the task at hand and continue to get even better.”

Athletes will continue races for 11 national team spots (six men, five women) on Tuesday morning with the second of four runs. Pikus-Pace, 2012 world champion Katie Uhlaender and Daly have byes onto the national team.

Holcomb describes the art of bobsledding

Shannon Szabados cut from men’s pro team after 2 games

Shannon Szabados
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Canadian Olympic goalie Shannon Szabados was cut from her men’s pro team two games into the season on Monday.

Szabados, playing in the Southern Professional Hockey League for a third year but in her first with the Peoria (Ill.) Rivermen, was cut along with the team’s other goalie, Storm Phaneuf, after they combined for 6-1 and 5-1 losses in the first two games last week.

“After our first two games, I thought our goaltending wasn’t good enough to compete, and changes had to be made,” Peoria coach Jean-Guy Trudel said in a press release. “We’re going to continue adjusting our roster as needed until we find a group on and off the ice that I feel can accomplish our primary goal here in Peoria, which is to build a winning team here in Peoria and bring our fans a championship.”

Szabados, a 30-year-old who won the last two Olympic finals against the U.S., recorded a goals-against average of 6.10 and a .792 save percentage while playing parts of both losses last week.

“I came off the ice after those games knowing it wasn’t going to work,” Trudel said, according to the Peoria Journal Star. “We had no preseason games, so essentially those acted as that test, and we found out some things that just weren’t going to be the way we needed.

“I thought our goaltending wasn’t good enough to compete, took the morale out of our team a bit and changes had to be made.”

Szabados had signed a tryout contract with Peoria a month earlier and was one of two goalies out of five to make the opening-night roster.

Szabados played for the Columbus (Ga.) Cottonmouths of the same league the previous two full seasons, ranking in the bottom half of the SPHL in goalie stats. She ranked second on the team in goalie games played each season.

2014-15: 3.12 GAA, .907 SV%
2015-16: 3.63 GAA, .910 SV%

If Szabados doesn’t sign with another pro team, she could now be available for a U.S.-Canada series in December. Szabados hasn’t played for the Canadian national team since the Sochi Olympics and reportedly said in August that she was unsure if she would make a 2018 Olympic run.

Szabados was not on the roster named Oct. 14 for next week’s Four Nations Cup in Finland, a tournament that includes the U.S., Canada, Finland and Sweden.

MORE: 2018 Olympic men’s hockey groups set

Russia says IOC asked for records of anti-doping history

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MOSCOW (AP) — Russia says the International Olympic Committee has asked it to provide evidence of how anti-doping procedures worked over a five-year period as it probes the country’s doping issues.

The IOC set up a disciplinary commission in July under former French Constitutional Court judge Guy Canivet to investigate allegations that Russian state and drug-testing officials covered up hundreds of doping cases, including at the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Vitaly Smirnov, a former IOC member from Russia who runs a government-backed doping commission, says he has received requests from the IOC to provide records regarding Russian anti-doping procedures from 2010-15.

Smirnov says his commission has collected the information and plans to provide it to the IOC this week.

MORE: Russia Olympic Committee president to step down