U.S. Olympic bobsled team does not include medal-winning push athletes, Lolo Jones

Pyeongchang 2018 - bobsleigh
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Elana Meyers Taylor and Kaillie Humphries lead the U.S. Olympic bobsled team, looking to drive to more medals in Beijing.

Olympic medalist push athletes Lauren Gibbs and Aja Evans were not selected to race in China. Neither was Lolo Jones, a Winter and Summer Olympian who was bidding for one more Games as a push athlete at age 39.

A U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton federation selection committee instead went with athletes with no Olympic experience — Sylvia Hoffman and Kaysha Love. Evans was named an alternate.

MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for 2022 Winter Olympics

Hoffman and Love received the most World Cup starts among the U.S. push athletes this season, including at the last two World Cups, a sign that they were preferred by the coaching staff.

The Olympic selection committee is made up of one of those coaches and four other people.

They went with younger athletes over the more decorated Gibbs (2018 Olympic silver medalist with Meyers Taylor), Evans (2014 Olympic bronze medalist, two-time Olympian) and Jones (world champion last season with Humphries).

Meyers Taylor, who on Sunday wrapped up the World Cup season title, eyes her first Olympic gold after bronze in 2010 and silvers in 2014 and 2018. She returned to competition last season after having son Nico on Feb. 22, 2020. Her husband, Nic, was named an alternate push athlete for the men’s team.

Humphries won gold in 2010 and 2014 driving for Canada, then switched to the U.S. after filing harassment and abuse claims against a Canadian program coach Todd Hays, a 2002 Olympic silver medalist for the U.S. She is married to an American and gained citizenship on Dec. 2, becoming eligible for the U.S. Olympic team.

German drivers Laura Nolte, Kim Kalicki and Mariama Jamanka will be tough competition in Beijing.

Nolte led the World Cup with four wins this season and likely would have won the season title if the Germans didn’t skip a stop in Latvia earlier this month. Kalicki was right behind her. Nolte and Jamanka, the surprise 2018 Olympic champion, went one-two in a race at the Yanqing Olympic track in October.

Meyers Taylor and Humphries have been stronger this season in the new Olympic women’s bobsled discipline of monobob. They rank Nos. 1 and 2 in the world. Jamanka, though, won the race on the Olympic track in October.

First-time Olympians Hunter Church and Frank Del Duca will drive the U.S. two- and four-man bobsleds that are underdogs for medals.

Church, a 25-year-old, third-generation bobsledder who grew up an hour north of Lake Placid, is the only U.S. male driver to make a World Cup podium in this Olympic cycle, doing so twice in four-man, including on Jan. 9. He was the highest-ranked U.S. men’s driver on the World Cup this season at 10th in four-man.

Del Duca, 30, switched from pushing to driving after missing the 2018 Olympics and earned his spot this year despite not racing World Cup until the last two stops. He gobbled up points with podium finishes in all 16 of his starts on the lower-level North American Cup.

The Olympic men’s push athletes include 2018 Olympians Hakeem Abdul Saboor (a former bodybuilder) and Carlo Valdes (a former UCLA wide receiver). They’re joined by Olympic rookies Kris Horn, Jimmy Reed, Charlie Volker and Josh Williamson.

German Francesco Friedrich is an overwhelming Olympic favorite in both two- and four-man, having won 14 of his 16 World Cup starts this season.

ON HER TURF: Competitive battle for U.S. women’s push athlete spots

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Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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