—Team Spring storms into fifth with new Canadian track record in two-man bobsleigh—
WHISTLER, B.C.—Competing in a World Cup for the first time in Whistler, hometown girl Jane Channell kicked off an emotional opening day at the IBSF BMW Bobsleigh and Skeleton World Cup by finishing just off the podium in fourth place.
The North Vancouver skeleton athlete, who was inspired to take up the sport while competing in track and softball at Simon Fraser University, clocked a two-run time of 1:49.87.
“The first run I had a couple of big mistakes so on run two I knew I needed to put it all together,” said Channell who has a silver and bronze medal in just her second year on the World Cup.
The 27-year-old Canuck blasted off the start block in the second heat, setting a new start record time of 4.84 at the Whistler Sliding Centre. Reaching speeds up to 137 kilometres/hour down the slick chute on Blackcomb Mountain, Channell climbed one spot in the standings after the strong second run to claim fourth.
“I know how to get down this track. It was a matter of keeping my composure (after the first run), stay relaxed and let the sled fly,” said Channell.
“I’d be lying if I wasn’t nervous. You never want to disappoint the hometown crowd. It would have been great to stand on the podium, but I can’t be disappointed with fourth place. I’ll have a smile on my face tonight.”
World Cup leader, Tina Hermann, won the women’s skeleton event. The German slid into the winner’s circle with a time of 1:48.90. First run leader, Anne O’Shea of the United States, hung onto the silver medal with a time of 1:49.09. Germany’s Jacqueline Loelling rounded out the women’s skeleton podium with a time of 1:49.48.
Calgary’s Elisabeth Vathje claimed the final spot in the top-10 with a time of 1:50.80. Cassie Hawrysh, of Brandon, Man., slid to 19th place with a time of 1:52.60 in her first World Cup race of the season.
As darkness fell on the Whistler Sliding Centre, the crowd lit up with excitement in the first of back-to-back men’s two-man bobsleigh races.
All eyes were on Canada’s Justin Kripps, of Summerland, B.C., and Alex Kopacz, of London, Ont., who posted the fastest opening run start time at 4.78 and sat in fourth place after their first bomb down the 16-corner lightening quick track.
The Canadians were then bumped into medal position after the third-place German sled pulled out of the race after a hamstring injury to pilot, Francesco Friedrich, before the 21-sled field took their final runs.
The Canadian cheers quickly shifted to Chris Spring and Lascelles Brown who stormed five spots up the leaderboard into a tie for fifth place with the Latvians after setting a new Canadian track record at 51.63 in the final heat. The Calgarians chalked up a two-run time of 1:43.56.
“I don’t know what I did different. That is kind of how the year has gone for me. I come down and sometimes I’m fast and other times the time is slow, but today I was three-tenths faster,” said Spring. “This track demands so much respect. It is never over. The World Cup hasn’t been here for a few years so you need to respect it even more. Lascelles (Brown) is a beast. He is timeless and gave us a good push tonight.”
An error in corner four spiraled downward for Kripps and Kopacz while plummeting down the Whistler track, and in the standings. The Canadians dropped into eighth place.
“Just struggled at the top and it snowballed from there,” said Kripps. “I was in a good place, but it is unfortunate. It is a good thing I’m a guy that doesn’t let these things bother me too much. I have another shot tomorrow.”
The energy at the Whistler Sliding Centre pumped to a new level when the Korean sled of Yunjong Won and Youngwoo Seo won their first ever World Cup race – just three weeks after the sudden passing of their legendary coach, Malcolm “Gomer” Lloyd.
An internationally renowned bobsleigh coach, and former coach of the Canadian program in 2006, Lloyd continued to reside in Calgary with his family while leading the Koreans over the last two years.
Lloyd’s wife, Jeannie Godfrey, was in Whistler Saturday to take in the race following a celebration of life earlier in the week. A beaming Godfrey presented the medals to the winning team who shared the top spot on the podium with the Switzerland duo of Rico Peter and Thomas Amrhein with a time of 1:43.41.
“My husband absolutely loved coaching this team and was here tonight. I know he was,” said an teary-eyed Godfrey after embracing with the Korean Team at the finish dock. “It is absolutely incredible and I’m so happy for these guys.”
First run leaders, Alexander Kasjanov and Aleksei Pushkarev dropped to third at 1:43.42.
The World Cup wraps up on Saturday in Whistler. The men’s skeleton race is set for 10 a.m. Women’s bobsleigh is slated for 2 p.m., while another men’s two-man bobsleigh race will take centre stage at 6 p.m.