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Bobsled, skeleton world championships moved out of Lake Placid

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The February 2021 World Bobsled and Skeleton Championships have been moved from Lake Placid, N.Y., to Altenberg, Germany, due to travel-related coronavirus concerns.

“The decision wasn’t easy as you can imagine, the bulk of athletes competing in the championships are based in Europe, so our strategy was to have less time spent in quarantine,” Heike Groesswang, International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) secretary general, said in a press release.

The move was made due to “travel restrictions that have been implemented to ensure the health and safety of all athletes,” according to the IBSF.

Two weeks ago, the world luge championships, also scheduled for February, were moved out of Whistler, B.C., for similar travel concerns. The International Luge Federation said it would decide a new venue within weeks.

Other upcoming winter sports seasons have also been affected. Alpine skiing will not have its usual North American World Cup stops in November and December. Figure skating’s international Grand Prix events this autumn will have localized fields. Speed skating World Cups have already been canceled.

The bobsled and skeleton World Cup is slated to go on with a schedule to be updated later Tuesday, according to the IBSF. As of now, the first events are in late November in Sigulda, Latvia.

At last season’s world championships, also in Altenberg, Germany won all but one gold medal. American Kaillie Humphries took the two-woman bobsled title in her first season since switching from Canada.

Lake Placid is now expected to host the 2025 World Bobsled and Skeleton Championships.

MORE: How the first Black male U.S. Winter Olympians changed bobsled

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2020 World Bobsled, Skeleton Championships TV, live stream schedule

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NBC Sports and Olympic Channel will air daily coverage of the world bobsled and skeleton championship starting Friday in Altenberg, Germany.

Headliners include Kaillie Humphries, the two-time Canadian Olympic bobsled champion finishing her first season competing for the U.S.

Humphries, who married a former U.S. bobsledder, was released by the Canadian federation in September after filing verbal abuse and harassment claims against a coach, saying she no longer felt safe with the program.

She won four of her seven World Cup starts this season and will race at worlds with Olympic silver medalist brakewoman Lauren Gibbs. Gibbs made the podium in PyeongChang with Elana Meyers Taylor, who is not competing this season due to pregnancy.

Humphries’ top competition on Friday and Saturday should be PyeongChang Olympic gold medalist Mariama Jamanka and Stephanie Schneider, both from host Germany. Humphries earned two world titles, in 2012 and 2013.

German Francesco Friedrich looks to continue his domination of the two- and four-man events. He swept the World Cup titles in each discipline the last two seasons, earned gold medals in each at the PyeongChang Olympics and won both titles at the last two worlds in 2017 and 2019.

Latvian Martins Dukurs, one of the greatest athletes yet to win an Olympic gold medal, can take his seventh world title in skeleton on the second weekend of competition in Altenberg. Dukurs is coming off his ninth World Cup season title, bettering the last two Olympic champions — Russian Alexander Tretiakov and South Korean Yun Sungbin.

Germans have dominated women’s skeleton since the retirement of 2014 and 2018 Olympic champion Lizzy Yarnold of Great Britain. Tina Hermann is the defending world champion. Jacqueline Loelling is the reigning World Cup champion

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VIDEO: Steven Holcomb’s mother’s speech after accepting Olympic medals

2020 World Bobsled and Skeleton Championships Broadcast Schedule

Date Time (ET) Event Network
Feb. 21 8 a.m. Women’s Bobsled Run 1 Olympic Channel | STREAM
9:30 a.m. Women’s Bobsled Run 2 Olympic Channel | STREAM
Feb. 22 5:30 a.m. Two-Man Bobsled Run 1 | STREAM
7 a.m. Two-Man Bobsled Run 2 | STREAM
9:30 a.m. Women’s Bobsled Run 3 | STREAM
11 a.m. Women’s Bobsled Run 4 | STREAM
3:30 p.m.* Two-Man Bobsled Run 1 Olympic Channel | STREAM
4:30 p.m.* Two-Man Bobsled Run 2 Olympic Channel | STREAM
5:30 p.m.* Women’s Bobsled Run 3 Olympic Channel | STREAM
6:30 p.m.* Women’s Bobsled Run 4 Olympic Channel | STREAM
Feb. 23 1:30 a.m.* Women’s Bobsled Run 4 NBCSN | STREAM
8:30 a.m. Two-Man Bobsled Run 3 | STREAM
10 a.m. Two-Man Bobsled Run 4 | STREAM
3 p.m.* Two-Man Bobsled Run 3 Olympic Channel | STREAM
4 p.m.* Two-Man Bobsled Run 4 Olympic Channel | STREAM
Feb. 24 2 a.m.* Two-Man Bobsled Run 4 NBCSN | STREAM
Feb. 27 4 a.m. Men’s Skeleton Run 1 Olympic Channel | STREAM
6 a.m. Men’s Skeleton Run 2 Olympic Channel | STREAM
Feb. 28 3:30 a.m. Women’s Skeleton Run 1 Olympic Channel | STREAM
5 a.m. Women’s Skeleton Run 2 Olympic Channel | STREAM
7 a.m. Men’s Skeleton Run 3 Olympic Channel | STREAM
8:30 a.m. Men’s Skeleton Run 4 Olympic Channel | STREAM
Feb. 29 3:30 a.m. Women’s Skeleton Run 3 Olympic Channel | STREAM
5 a.m. Women’s Skeleton Run 4 | STREAM
6:30 a.m.* Women’s Skeleton Run 4 Olympic Channel | STREAM
7:30 a.m. Four-Man Bobsled Run 1 Olympic Channel | STREAM
9 a.m. Four-Man Bobsled Run 2 Olympic Channel | STREAM
March 1 4 a.m. Team Event Olympic Channel | STREAM
7 a.m. Four-Man Bobsled Run 3 | STREAM
8:30 a.m. Four-Man Bobsled Run 4 | STREAM
12:30 p.m.* Four-Man Bobsled Run 3 Olympic Channel | STREAM
1:30 p.m.* Four-Man Bobsled Run 4 Olympic Channel | STREAM
March 2 1:30 a.m.* Four-Man Bobsled Run 4 NBCSN | STREAM

*Delayed broadcast

Katie Uhlaender wants to finish her skeleton career her way

Katie Uhlaender
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In 2018, Katie Uhlaender stood where she has so many times — at the start of an Olympic skeleton competition. But this time, the former world champion and World Cup champion felt dragged down by so many traumas and emotional moments. 

The surgeries. The debts. The loss of an Olympic medal she held only briefly. The sudden appearance of her estranged mother a startling sight that surely would’ve been better at the finish line in PyeongChang rather than the start house. And worst of all, the death of her best friend, Olympic bobsled champion Steven Holcomb, whose body she had discovered.

She finished 13th, the worst result of her four Olympic appearances.

Today, she’s determined to get back one more time.

I did not want to end it that way,” Uhlaender said in a telephone interview from Germany, where she was once again devoting her holidays to training. 

She’s not on the World Cup circuit this year, having been out last year and narrowly missing out on a place in the top tier of competition after the national trials last month. But she has embraced her assignment to the North American Cup, where she won two straight races in late November, and the Intercontinental Cup, where she was on the podium in her season opener Dec. 7 in Winterberg, Germany.

I honestly thought maybe that was a blessing,” Uhlaender said. “I could work on the lower circuit. If I can continue to love the sport, I think the speed will come on its own.”

Uhlaender has had plenty of success in her career. She won the world championship in 2012, completing a set of medals to go with her 2007 bronze and 2008 silver. She won the overall World Cup in 2007-08, followed up by finishing third the next year and again in 2012-13. She’s even found other competitive outlets, dabbling in weightlifting and track cycling.

Her cycling has provided a way to stay in shape without putting any more strain on a body that has had, as recounted by a Team USA story in 2017, a total of 12 surgeries some resulting from a serious snowmobile accident (exacerbated by a collision while dancing), two related to an autoimmune disorder, and none resulting from any of her sports.

She also dealt with mental strains. She had an Olympic medal ever so briefly, when Russia’s Elena Nikitina was stripped of the 2014 bronze medal for a doping violation but then reinstated on appeal, a decision announced just before the 2018 Olympics.

Less than a year earlier, after wondering why she hadn’t heard from Holcomb in a couple of days, she broke into his room and found him dead in the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, N.Y.

“Finding your best friend dead like that was like being kicked in the gut so hard,” Uhlaender said. “I couldn’t really find my footing. I focused on helping his family.”

Holcomb had been a steadying force in Uhlaender’s life and career. Continuing without him wasn’t easy.

I hadn’t competed without Holcomb my whole career,” Uhlaender said. “The whole time, he was my confidant. If I wasn’t sure of my plan to execute the race, I was in his room, talking it through with him.”

Between the emotion of Holcomb’s death, the medal controversy and the sudden appearance of her estranged mother, Uhlaender was not in a good place mentally when she competed in PyeongChang.

She sounds more positive today. But in describing how she got to this point, the struggles are always there. The debt. The scramble for health insurance. The harassment from Russian fans throughout the medal controversy. The losses of Holcomb and her father, Ted Uhlaender, whose World Series ring Uhlaender wore on a chain on her neck for years. The difficulty in finding a job that she could balance with training and travel, especially when she hasn’t found the time to get an education that makes her competitive on the job market.

But she has found interesting employment in the past year, doing production work on “Survivor” and the reborn “Eco-Challenge” TV series. The income helped, and the shows fit well with her love of adventure and challenging herself.

I’ve been to four Olympics, and it doesn’t compare to the pressure of a reality show,” Uhlaender said. “That’s why I love that crew. They do expect your best, but they also care about you. They care about your well-being. You care if I perform, but you actually care if I’m OK.”

She also got a mental reboot.

My job was to go through the jungle and follow these racers in the jungle with just the resources of the jungle — I had no Internet, no phone,” Uhlaender said. “I hadn’t slept in 36 hours. Then one of my crew said, ‘You know, you’re really hard on yourself.’ I realized I was feeling so guilty with what happened with Holcomb that I hadn’t allowed myself to heal.”

Back to competition she went.

She also has proudly taken up a role as an athlete advocate. She has taken her efforts to reform Olympic organizations in the U.S. and elsewhere to Congress and the Court of Arbitration for Sport, seeking support for athletes in need and penalties for countries that skirt doping laws.

We need an organization to advocate for athletes,” Uhlaender said. “That’s been the whole problem with the doping scandal.”

She has become a top spokesperson for the Level Field Fund, an organization that helps athletes like her keep training with a fifth possible run at the Olympics still two years away.

My goal coming back is to end it on my terms,” Uhlaender said.

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