There’s still a long way to go to Sochi, but Aja Evans made an early statement in the competition to make the U.S. Olympic women’s bobsled team by winning a second straight national push championship Thursday.
The national championships combined times of two pushes in Calgary, Canada, to determine standings. The results will help determine the selection of the national team for races this fall.
Evans won with a two-run total of 10.931 seconds. Two-time world medalist Katie Eberling came in second, .06 behind, followed by recent track and field convert Lauryn Williams.
Williams, 29, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist in the 100 meters, retired from track in June and was convinced to try the new sport by Lolo Jones. 2010 Olymipan Emily Azevedo was fourth, followed by Jones in fifth.
The push athletes are bidding to make the Olympic team, which will likely be made up of three two-woman sleds. Evans, a former collegiate sprinter, medaled in the last two World Cups of the 2012-13 season, her first in the sport.
“I definitely feel more confident this year after my performances last season, and just having a year of sliding under my belt gives me some added confidence,” Evans said in a U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation release. “I’m more aware, and I know what to expect this season. Now I can focus on the things that matter, like my technique. I think I can be more explosive off the block, so I’m going to continue working on that with hopes of mastering it before the season.”
Eberling, like Evans, would be a favorite for the Olympic team if it was named today. She won silver with pilot Elana Meyers at the world championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in January.
“This is the first stage of a long season ahead, so I’m pretty happy with how I performed,” Eberling said. “It’s a different feeling now that I’ve been in the sport for two years, because there’s an expectation to do well now.”
If the U.S. qualifies a third sled for Sochi, which it should, the competition could be tight among the push athletes. Azevedo and Jones were the third and fourth women during the last World Cup season. Williams could be a wild card as she gets used to the ice.
“I am very eager to make the most of the next eight weeks and learn as much as possible,” Williams said. “I want to be a bobsledder.”
The World Cup season begins in Calgary in late November. Results will help determine how many sleds the U.S. will qualify for Sochi and which athletes will make the Olympic team, which was named in mid-January for the 2010 Games.
Drivers and push athletes are planned to pair up for a competition Saturday, according to The Associated Press.