Kaillie Humphries, Elana Meyers Taylor break gender barrier in bobsled World Cup

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Olympic gold and silver medalists Kaillie Humphries and Elana Meyers Taylor became the first women to drive four-man bobsleds in World Cup competition in Calgary on Saturday.

The Canadian Humphries and American Meyers Taylor piloted their sleds to 15th and 16th places, respectively, out of 17 total sleds at the 1988 Olympic venue.

“Everyone was so excited to see us race today and it really helped me realize the significance of the moment,” Meyers Taylor said, according to U.S. Bobsled. “There were some little girls at the track that were excited to watch women’s bobsled today, and hopefully what Kaillie and I are doing inspires them. I hope someday a woman racing in four-man isn’t news.”

Latvian Oskars Melbardis won in a two-run time of 1 minute, 47.84 seconds. The 14th-place Russian sled, just ahead of Humphries, was .96 behind. Humphries was 1.03 seconds behind. Meyers Taylor was 1.68 back.

The last-place sled, driven by Latvian Olympian Oskars Kibermanis, crashed in the first run, finished eight seconds slower than the field and did not start the second run.

World Cup four-man bobsled was made gender neutral beginning this season, a rule change that Humphries petitioned for before she won her second straight two-woman gold in Sochi in February.

Humphries and Meyers Taylor, friends who call their rivalry a “Battle Royale,” were driving with World Cup rookie crews in their nations’ No. 3 sleds.

Earlier Saturday, Meyers Taylor won the two-woman competition in Calgary. Humphries was third.

“It was more challenging than I expected to switch from a two-man sled to a four-man sled in one day, so I take it with a grain of salt and feel blessed to have the opportunity to be racing in both disciplines,” Meyers Taylor said. “It was fun, although I can’t say I’m too thrilled about my driving in the four-man sled.”

The bobsled World Cup continues in Altenberg, Germany, from Jan. 9-11. Meyers Taylor will not compete in four-man in Altenberg, according to U.S. Bobsled.

“I’m not sure why women racing four-man was ever a question,” said 2010 Olympic champion Steven Holcomb, who finished seventh Saturday. “Driving is a skill, it’s not gender biased. Elana and Kaillie did a great job today, and they proved women are capable of racing in four-man. Hopefully it increases interest.”

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U.S. Open mulls no fans, group flights, coronavirus tests as decision looms

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Charter flights to ferry U.S. Open tennis players and limited entourages from Europe, South America and the Middle East to New York. Negative COVID-19 tests before traveling. Centralized housing. Daily temperature checks.

No spectators. Fewer on-court officials. No locker-room access on practice days.

All are among the scenarios being considered for the 2020 U.S. Open — if it is held at all amid the coronavirus pandemic — and described to The Associated Press by a high-ranking official at the Grand Slam tournament.

“All of this is still fluid,” Stacey Allaster, the U.S. Tennis Association’s chief executive for professional tennis, said in a telephone interview Saturday. “We have made no decisions at all.”

With that caveat, Allaster added that if the USTA board does decide to go forward with the Open, she expects it to be held at its usual site and in its usual spot on the calendar. The main draw is scheduled to start Aug. 31.

“We continue to be, I would say, 150% focused on staging a safe environment for conducting a U.S. Open at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York on our dates. It’s all I wake up — our team wakes up — thinking about,” Allaster said. “The idea of an alternative venue, an alternative date … we’ve got a responsibility to explore it, but it doesn’t have a lot of momentum.”

An announcement should come from “mid-June to end of June,” Allaster said.

All sanctioned competition has been suspended by the ATP, WTA and International Tennis Federation since March and is on hold until late July.

The French Open was postponed from May to September; Wimbledon was canceled for the first time since 1945.

There is no established COVID-19 protocol for tennis, a global sport with several governing bodies.

“Everybody would agree to the fundamental principles, I’m sure: protecting the health of participants, following the local laws and minimizing the risk of the transmission of the virus,” said Stuart Miller, who is overseeing the ITF’s return-to-tennis policy. “But then you have to get down into the specific details.”

One such detail: The USTA wants to add locker rooms — including at indoor courts that housed hundreds of temporary hospital beds at the height of New York’s coronavirus outbreak — and improve air filtration in existing spaces. Also being considered: no locker-room access until just before a match. So if anyone goes to Flushing Meadows just to train, Allaster said, “You come, you practice, and return to the hotel.”

The USTA presented its operational plan to a medical advisory group Friday; now that will be discussed with city, state and federal government officials.

MORE: Olympic tennis: Key questions for Tokyo Games in 2021

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Jamaican bobsledders want to return to the Olympics, so they’re pushing a Mini Cooper

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The Jamaican bobsled team’s push for the next Winter Olympics took a detour to the roads of Great Britain.

Numerous British media outlets reported in the last week on Shanwayne Stephens and Nimroy Turgott, who have been pushing cars, including a Mini Cooper, in Peterborough.

“We had to come up with our own ways of replicating the sort of pushing we need to do [in bobsledding amid the coronavirus pandemic],” Stephens, a reported British resident since age 11, said, according to Reuters. “So that’s why we thought: why not go out and push the car?

“We do get some funny looks. We’ve had people run over, thinking the car’s broken down, trying to help us bump-start the car. When we tell them we’re the Jamaica bobsleigh team, the direction is totally different, and they’re very excited.”

The Jamaican bobsled team rose to fame with its Olympic debut at the 1988 Calgary Winter Games, inspiring the 1993 Disney film, “Cool Runnings.” At least one Jamaican men’s sled competed in every Olympics from 1988 through 2002, then again in 2014, with a best finish of 14th.

A Jamaican women’s sled debuted at the Olympics in 2018, driven by 2014 U.S. Olympian Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian. A Jamaican men’s sled just missed qualifying for PyeongChang by one spot in world rankings.

Stephens, a driver, is 51st and 56th in the current world rankings for the four-person and two-man events, respectively.

He competed in lower-level international races last season with a best finish of sixth in a four-person race that had seven sleds. One of Stephens’ push athletes was Carrie Russell, a 2018 Olympian in the two-woman event and former sprinter who won a world title in the 4x100m in 2013.

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MORE: Sam Clayton, Jamaica’s first bobsled driver, was ‘a pioneer of pioneers’