Kendall Wesenberg

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USA Bobsled and Skeleton dismisses longtime CEO Darrin Steele

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USA Bobsled and Skeleton has fired CEO Darrin Steele, who oversaw teams that won nine Olympic medals and 12 world championship medals.

Steele will remain in place for about another month. The federation’s board of directors did not cite a specific reason for the change. Athletes were told in a conference call Tuesday night, and John Rosen will assume the CEO role on an interim basis until a permanent hire is made.

“This was a very difficult decision,” USABS board chair Bob Bergbauer said. “We are grateful for Darrin’s guidance, but the board feels it’s time for a fresh perspective as we head into the future.”

The news comes less than two months before the federation begins work for the coming season.

“Darrin did a great job and I’ll always appreciate everything he ever did for us,” USA Bobsled coach Mike Kohn said after the news was announced. “The thing about Darrin that a lot of people don’t understand is there’s a lot that goes on that people never know about, high-level things that take place that pave the way for people to be successful. That’s the thing Darrin was great about and great about helping me with.”

Steele was a two-time Olympic athlete in bobsled, and then took over as CEO in 2007. The U.S. sled driven by Steven Holcomb won four-man gold in Vancouver three years later, ending a 62-year drought for the Americans in bobsled’s signature race. Holcomb drove to two more medals at the Sochi Games in 2014, and U.S. women’s drivers Erin Pac, Elana Meyers Taylor (twice) and Jamie Greubel Poser all guided sleds to Olympic medals during Steele’s tenure as well. Noelle Pikus-Pace and Matt Antoine won Olympic skeleton medals, and for much of Steele’s tenure the federation enjoyed constant success.

But the last two years have been filled with one issue after another. Holcomb died in 2017, sending shock waves through the team and the entire federation. The bobsled and skeleton teams managed just one medal at the Pyeongchang Games in 2018, and last year’s World Cup season landed only eight medals — seven earned by the driving of Meyers Taylor, and the other a bronze in women’s skeleton by Kendall Wesenberg.

“I’m incredibly grateful for the past 12 years with USABS,” Steele said in a statement released by the federation. “I’ve been able to work with some amazing people and shared some incredible moments that I’ll never forget. I’m proud of the work we’ve done, and I wish the organization well as the baton is passed to the next federation leader.”

Steele is also a vice president for the International Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation, the sport’s governing body. He will remain in that role.

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Wesenberg wins first U.S. skeleton World Cup medal in two years

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With a bronze medal in Lake Placid earlier today, Kendall Wesenberg became the first American to reach the World Cup podium in skeleton in two years.

Wesenberg, who finished 17th at her first Olympics in PyeongChang, had a combined time of 1:51.10 in Lake Placid. Prior to today, her last podium finish at the World Cup was in St. Moritz in January 2017.

“This has never been my strongest track, so we really broke it down piece by piece, and I think it paid off,” Wesenberg said, according to USA Bobsled and Skeleton. “The second run, I kind of tried to throw it away at the top there. By the time I made it to corner 10, I was just thinking ‘build speed, build speed.”

Wesenberg, 28, grew up in California’s Central Valley, but her interest in sliding sports piqued while watching the 2010 Vancouver Games. When the commentators discussed the athletic backgrounds of the athletes, Wesenberg realized she played some of the same sports growing up. A quick Google search brought her to the USA Bobsled and Skeleton page. She told her siblings she was thinking of trying skeleton. They said she’d never do it. Challenge accepted.

Wesenberg emailed a U.S. coach and signed up for a combine and driving training in January 2011. Seven years later, she was sliding on Olympic ice.

Sliding coverage continues today on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, with women’s bobsled live at 3:15 p.m. ET and men’s bobsled live at 4:15.

 

U.S. Olympic skeleton team finalized

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Katie Uhlaender is going to a record fourth Olympics for a U.S. skeleton slider and looking for either her first or second Olympic medal.

The 33-year-old was one of four athletes named to the U.S. Olympic skeleton team on Monday, joining Sochi bronze medalist Matt Antoine, 2010 and 2014 Olympian John Daly and first-time Olympian Kendall Wesenberg.

Uhlaender placed fourth in Sochi, .04 behind Russian bronze medalist Elena Nikitina.

Nikitina’s bronze medal was stripped last year due to doping, and she was barred from the Olympics for life, though she is appealing. Uhlaender waits to see if she will be upgraded from fourth place to bronze.

Antoine, too, could be upgraded since Aleksandr Tretiyakov was stripped of his gold.

Daly was in fourth place after three of four runs in Sochi but finished 15th after slipping at the start of his final run.

He came out of a two-year retirement in 2016, hoping for another chance to author a different ending to his Olympic career.

Wesenberg, 27, is the only American slider to earn a World Cup medal since the start of 2017.

She first learned of the sport while watching bobsled during the 2010 Olympics. Wesenberg finished her degree at Colorado, where she played club soccer, and moved to Utah in 2012 to pursue skeleton.

The best World Cup finish for any American this season is seventh.

The Olympic men’s gold-medal favorites are South Korean Yun Sung-bin and Latvian Martins Dukurs. The top women are Germans Jacqueline Loelling and Tina Hermann and Canadians Elisabeth Vathje and Mirela Rahneva.

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MORE: Host South Korea seeks Olympic sliding breakthrough in skeleton