Elana Meyers Taylor
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Bobsled, skeleton world championships broadcast schedule, preview

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Elana Meyers Taylor says she’s starting to become herself again. Good timing, since the world championships start this weekend.

Meyers Taylor is the top U.S. gold-medal hope at bobsled and skeleton worlds in Koenigssee, Germany. Races will stream live on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app, beginning with first two women’s bobsled runs Friday at 8:15 a.m. ET.

The two-time Olympic medalist Meyers Taylor is riding a four-race winning streak on the World Cup, but it’s taken plenty of physical and mental pain to get here. She suffered a concussion in a race crash in Koenigssee on Jan. 26, 2015, with the after-effects lasting into the 2015-16 season, causing her to miss four races.

This season, Meyers Taylor has competed from the start. But she crashed in the season-opening race in Whistler, B.C., and dealt with back pain for most of the last three months. On top of everything, she struggled with the death of one of her grandfathers in early January.

Meyers Taylor teams this weekend with second-year push athlete Kehri Jones, who ejected out of the back of the sled in that Whistler crash.

Worlds were moved from Sochi, Russia, to Koenigssee two months ago amid the Russian doping scandal. Meyers Taylor showed her Koenigssee crash from two years ago was behind her when she won a World Cup race on the track in January.

“I’m confident on this track,” she said earlier this week. “The last time I was here, I was having trouble in the same spot where I had my crash. A little bit of hesitation, a little bit of problems there. Now, everything seems to be clicking down there.”

Meyers Taylor’s goal every season (outside of the Olympics, which she has yet to win) is to sweep the World Cup and world championships titles. That’s exactly what she did in 2015, but Meyers Taylor was third at worlds last season and missed half of the World Cup races due to that concussion.

She attributes recent success to a change in philosophy given the past two years.

“I’ve gotten a different perspective on bobsled,” Meyers Taylor said. “Every day I go out there, I’m just happy to be there and happy to be sliding. I’ve really taken the approach this year to focus on my driving and not worry about winning or losing races. Wins will come if I drive well.”

Her biggest challengers at worlds will come from her longtime top rivals, Canadian Kaillie Humphries and American Jamie Greubel Poser, who joined Meyers Taylor on the Sochi podium. Meyers Taylor led after the first three of four runs at the Olympics before falling behind Humphries in the finale.

The Olympics and worlds are the only events with a four-run format. Humphries leads this season’s World Cup standings through seven of eight races, but Meyers Taylor still believes she’s the woman to beat in Koenigssee.

“I’d be stupid if I didn’t say myself,” she said.

After Koenigssee, the world’s top sliders head to PyeongChang for training on the Olympic track plus the final World Cup of the season. Meyers Taylor, 32, expects to compete beyond 2018, “until the wheels fall off,” but also wants to start a family with her husband.

All but one of the push athletes on the national team were recruited to the sport by Meyers Taylor, making her perhaps the most valuable person in the entire American program.

“It’s called desperation,” she said. “I know that world championships and PyeongChang is going to come down to hundredths of a second. I needed every hundredth of a second I could from a brakeman standpoint. I make it a point to go out there and find my own athletes. If I want something to happen, I’ve got to make sure to do it myself. I can’t leave it up to somebody randomly finding bobsled.”

Jones, whom Meyers Taylor calls her “spark plug,” came over in 2015 after sprinting at Baylor University.

Meyers Taylor was talking with Baylor’s strength-and-conditioning and track-and-field coaches about potential bobsled converts when Jones’ name came up in an email. Jones’ diminutive size (5 feet, 130 pounds) made her valuable in bobsled, where sled weight maximums have been reduced in the last two years.

A look at the other disciplines at worlds:

Men’s Bobsled
German sleds have won 12 of the last 14 two- or four-man world titles on German tracks. The host nation has three drivers capable of taking gold this year — Francesco Friedrich, Johannes Lochner and Nico Walther.

In the two-man, Friedrich is favored to join Italian legend Eugenio Monti as the only drivers to win four straight world titles in any event. He has won four of the seven World Cup races this season after coming back to beat Lochner for his third straight world title last year.

In the four-man, Lochner has won three of the seven races this season, his first full-time on the World Cup circuit. At the race in Koenigssee last month, Lochner and Walther went one-two.

If anybody is to upset the Germans, it may be 2010 Olympic four-man champion Steven Holcomb. The American tied Friedrich for second at the World Cup two-man in Koenigssee last month — behind Lochner — and was fourth in the four-man. He also finished third and sixth in the races at the 2011 Worlds in Koenigssee. These are expected to be the final worlds for the 36-year-old Holcomb.

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Men’s Skeleton
Russian Aleksandr Tretiyakov and Latvian Martins Dukurs enter as co-favorites, having alternated World Cup wins in Koenigssee the last four years and put up strong seasons to date. Tretiyakov topped Dukurs for the Olympic title in Sochi, while Dukurs relegated Tretiyakov to silver at the last two worlds.

Tretiyakov was banned for nine days in December and January after being implicated in the McLaren report on Russian doping leading up to and during Sochi, but the sanction was lifted due to a lack of evidence.

South Korean Yun Sung-Bin, a 2016 World Championships and World Cup runner-up (sharing silver at the former with Tretiyakov), has said he will skip worlds to get more training on the 2018 Olympic track in PyeongChang. That increases the medal chances for Sochi Olympic bronze medalist Matthew Antoine, but the American placed seventh, 10th and 15th in his last three Koenigssee outings.

Women’s Skeleton
Despite its sliding-sports dominance, Germany has never won an Olympic skeleton title. That could change next year. Jacqueline Loelling and Tina Hermann have been the two best women’s sliders over the past two years. At ages 22 and 24, they have succeeded Anja Huber and Marion Thees in the German program.

Loelling leads the World Cup standings and won the race in Koenigssee last month. Last season, Hermann swept the World Cup and World Championships titles, plus won both races in Koenigssee.

Olympic champion Lizzy Yarnold of Great Britain returned this season after a one-year break but has one podium finish in six World Cup starts. Likewise, the U.S. women have combined for one World Cup podium, a disappointment after Annie O’Shea finished fourth in last season’s World Cup standings.

MORE: Jamaica bobsled team crowdfunds for new coach

Date Time (ET) Event Network
Friday, 2/17 8:15 a.m. Women’s Bobsled Run 1 Streaming
Friday, 2/17 10 a.m. Women’s Bobsled Run 2 Streaming
Friday, 2/17 3 p.m. Women’s Bobsled Run 1-2 Universal HD
Saturday, 2/18 4:30 a.m. Two-Man Bobsled Run 1 Streaming
Saturday, 2/18 6 a.m. Two-Man Bobsled Run 2 Streaming
Saturday, 2/18 9:15 a.m. Women’s Bobsled Run 3 Streaming
Saturday, 2/18 10:45 a.m. Women’s Bobsled Run 4 Streaming
Saturday, 2/18 4 p.m. Two-Man Bobsled Run 1-2 Universal HD
Saturday, 2/18 5 p.m. Women’s Bobsled Run 3-4 Universal HD
Sunday, 2/19 4:30 a.m. Two-Man Bobsled Run 3 Streaming
Sunday, 2/19 6 a.m. Two-Man Bobsled Run 4 Streaming
Sunday, 2/19 9 a.m. Team Event Streaming
Sunday, 2/19 5 p.m. Two-Man Bobsled Run 3-4 NBCSN
Sunday, 2/19 8:30 p.m. Team Event Universal HD
Friday, 2/24 5 a.m. Men’s Skeleton Run 1 Streaming
Friday, 2/24 7 a.m. Men’s Skeleton Run 2 Streaming
Friday, 2/24 9 a.m. Women’s Skeleton Run 1 Streaming
Friday, 2/24 11 a.m. Women’s Skeleton Run 2 Streaming
Friday, 2/24 4 p.m. Men’s Skeleton Run 1-2 Universal HD
Friday, 2/24 5 p.m. Women’s Skeleton Run 1-2 Universal HD
Saturday, 2/25 2:30 a.m. Women’s Skeleton Run 3 Streaming
Saturday, 2/25 4:30 a.m. Women’s Skeleton Run 4 Streaming
Saturday, 2/25 7:30 a.m. Four-Man Bobsled Run 1 Streaming
Saturday, 2/25 9:15 a.m. Four-Man Bobsled Run 2 Streaming
Saturday, 2/25 5 p.m. Women’s Skeleton Run 3-4 Universal HD
Saturday, 2/25 6 p.m. Four-Man Bobsled Run 1-2 Universal HD
Sunday 2/26 2:30 a.m. Men’s Skeleton Run 3 Streaming
Sunday 2/26 4:30 a.m. Men’s Skeleton Run 4 Streaming
Sunday 2/26 7:30 a.m. Four-Man Bobsled Run 3 Streaming
Sunday 2/26 9:15 a.m. Four-Man Bobsled Run 4 Streaming
Sunday 2/26 3:30 p.m. Men’s Skeleton Run 3-4 NBCSN
Sunday 2/26 4:30 p.m. Four-Man Bobsled Run 3-4 NBCSN

Mondo Duplantis, Sandi Morris miss attempts at pole vault records

Mondo Duplantis
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Sweden’s Mondo Duplantis and U.S. athlete Sandi Morris took turns attempting world records in the pole vault Wednesday at the Meeting d’Athlétsime Hauts-de-France Pas-de-Calais meet at Arena Stade Regional in Liévin, France, but both were unable to clear the bar.

Duplantis, aiming to set the world record for third time in February, had no misses leading up to his record attempts. U.S. vaulter Sam Kendricks, who has won the last two world championships, cleared 5.90m but dropped out after one attempt at 5.95m. Duplantis passed on that height, then cleared 6.07m to warm up for his shot at 6.19m, just shy of 20 feet, 3 3/4 inches.

Morris’ attempt to tie Jennifer Suhr‘s world indoor record of 5.03m from 2016 was more of a surprise. Morris holds the U.S. outdoor record at 5.00m but had never done better than 4.95m indoors. She won Wednesday’s competition with a clearance of 4.83m and asked to go immediately to 5.03m, or 16 feet, 6 inches.

Yelena Isinbayeva still holds the outdoor record of 5.06m, set in 2009. Morris is second on the all-time list and is the only athlete other than Isinbayeva or Suhr to clear 5 meters either indoors or outdoors.

In the men’s pole vault, Duplantis’ clearance of 6.18m Feb. 15 in Glasgow is the best vault indoors or outdoors.  Sergey Bubka still has the highest clearance outdoors at 6.14m. Bubka also held the indoor record of 6.15m for more than 20 years, finally losing it to Renaud Lavillenie in 2014. Duplantis cleared 6.17m Feb. 9 in Poland, then added another centimeter last week in Glasgow.

READ: Duplantis raises record in Glasgow

Duplantis, Lavillenie and Bubka are the only vaulters to clear 20 feet. Kendricks cleared 6.06m, or 19-10 1/2, last summer, the highest outdoor clearance by anyone other than Bubka.

Duplantis grew up in Louisiana and attended LSU for one year, setting the NCAA indoor (5.92m) and outdoor (6.00m) before turning pro, though he was upset in the NCAA final by South Dakota junior Chris Nilsen.

Also at Wednesday’s meet:

Ronnie Baker ran 6.49 seconds in the 60m semifinals and lowered that to 6.44 in the final, second only to Christian Coleman this season. Demek Kemp finished second and tied his personal best of 6.50.

Nia Ali and Christina Clemons finished 1-2 in the women’s 60m hurdles with identical times of 7.92. Ali is the reigning world champion and Olympic silver medalist in the 100m hurdles. She also won world indoor titles in 2014 and 2016.

Two Ethiopian runners set the fastest times of the season Samuel Tefera in the 1,500m (3:35.54) and Getnet Wale in the 3,000m (7:32.80). Wale was fourth in the 3,000m steeplechase in the 2019 world championships.

Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, racing in his home country of France, won the 60m hurdles in 7.47, second this season to Grant Holloway‘s 7.38 last week.

The World Athletics Indoor Tour ends Friday in Madrid. The world indoor championships originally scheduled for March in Nanjing, China, have been postponed a year due to the coronavirus outbreak.

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Susan Dunklee extends decade of surprises for U.S. biathletes

Susan Dunklee
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When Susan Dunklee‘s time held up for second place in Friday’s 7.5km sprint, she became the first U.S. biathlete to win two world championship medals in her career and earned the sixth medal for the U.S. in world biathlon championship history.

Four of those medals have come in the past eight years.

First was Tim Burke, who had gained some fame among biathlon fans with his three World Cup podiums in the 2009-10 season and his relationship with German biathlete Andrea Henkel, who would win two Olympic gold medals and eight world championships before retiring and marrying Burke.

In that season, Burke led the World Cup briefly but faded and didn’t do well in the Olympics. But in 2012-13, he finished 10th in the World Cup overall and ended the American drought in the world championships, finishing second in the individual behind dominant French biathlete Martin Fourcade, who won his 11th non-relay world title Wednesday in the individual.

In 2017, Dunklee became the first U.S. woman to win a non-relay medal, taking the lead in the mass start after quickly knocking down all five targets in the last shooting and holding on for second. She didn’t come out of nowhere, having taken a few World Cup medals. That season, she ranked 10th overall in the World Cup.

Then came the stunner. Lowell Bailey, who had just one World Cup podium in a long career coming into the 2016-17 season, had bib 100 in the individual, a spot usually reserved for non-contenders. But he hit all 20 targets, always important in a race that penalizes athletes one minute per miss, and gutted it out through the last lap to keep a 3.3-second advantage and win the first world championship for a U.S. biathlete.

Like Dunklee, Bailey earned his medal in the midst of a strong season. The individual was won of his four top-10 finishes in the world championships, including a fourth-place finish in the sprint. He wound up eighth overall in the World Cup.

Bailey and Burke each stuck it out to compete in their fourth Olympics in 2018, then crossed the finish line together in their final race at the U.S. championships.

This season is their first in management. Bailey, also a bluegrass musician, is now U.S. Biathlon’s director of high performance. Burke is director of athlete development.

Dunklee, on the other hand, isn’t done. Her results slipped a bit after her 2017 breakthrough, but she has had some top 10s. When she shoots clean, as she did Friday, she’s a contender.

The first U.S. medal was in the first women’s world championship in 1984, when Holly Beatie, Julie Newman and Kari Swenson bronze in 3x5km relay. Swenson also finished fifth in the individual that year and returned to compete in the next two world championships after a harrowing experience in which she was abducted and shot, a story that inspired a film starring Tracy Pollan.

The only other U.S. medal in the world championships before Burke, Bailey and Dunklee was Josh Thompson‘s individual silver in 1987. The only athletes other than Burke, Bailey, Dunklee and Thompson to have World Cup podiums (excluding relays) are Jeremy Teela in 2009 and Clare Egan, who was third in a mass start last spring and is competing in the world championships this year.

U.S. Paralympians broke through with two gold medals on the first day of competition in the 2018 Paralympics.

READ: Kendall Gretsch, Dan Cnossen take gold

Wednesday saw another surprise finish for a U.S. biathlete. Leif Nordgren, whose career-best finish outside the relays is 16th, was the only athlete to go 20-for-20 on the shooting range and placed eighth in the individual.

The championships continue through through Sunday with the single mixed relay on Thursday, the men’s and women’s relays on Saturday, and the men’s and women’s mass starts on Sunday.

WATCH: World biathlon championships TV schedule

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