PARK CITY, UT— Competing in her first World Cup race on the Olympic Track in Park City, Utah, Ottawa’s Mirela Rahneva came up just short of the podium finishing fourth on Saturday.
Rahneva clocked a two-run time of 1:40.86 after an all-out battle on the tricky 15-corner track against the world’s best skeleton athletes.
“I am extremely happy. We had a great week in Lake Placid as a team but I was a little shaky getting that first race out of the way. I haven’t been here for three years, but I definitely got a lot more confident after today,” said Rahneva, who finished third overall on the World Cup in her rookie season last year while sliding to the podium four times.
“Sometimes after a great year you expect a slump year is coming. The girls have all been working really well together and Liz (Elisabeth Vathje) and Jane (Channell) were a big help to me this week sharing lines. I hope we can keep taking turns bringing medals home.”
Sitting in sixth spot after her first rip down the 2002 Olympic Track, the 29 year old rocketed off the block with the third fastest start time (4.92), propelling her to a fourth place finish in a sea-saw affair. Rahneva appeared to lose time on the field mid-way through her second run, but stormed back into medal contention after perfecting the bottom portion of the track.
“I just love the bottom half of this track,” added Rahneva. “It reminds me of St. Moritz where it is nice and flowy. Corner 14 is my favourite on the track. Skeleton is a race of consistency and keeping your cool. I was able to stay patient and was happy to hold my spot.”
Calgary’s Elisabeth Vathje also put her name in the medal hunt for the second straight week, but let it slip away after a challenging second run.
Sitting in third spot after the first heat, Vathje’s podium hopes came to an end after tapping the wall in the uphill section of the 10-corner track, costing her the speed needed to hang on for a spot on the podium. The 23-year-old Calgarian finished with a sixth place time of 1:40.91. Vathje now sits second in the overall World Cup standings.
Russia’s Elena Nikitina captured her second career World Cup victory with a time of 1:40.09. Nikitina shared the podium with two German athletes. Tina Hermann held on for the silver medal at 1:40.51 after relinquishing her first-run lead. Jacqueline Loelling snagged the final spot on the podium at 1:40.72.
North Vancouver’s Jane Channell was the only other Canadian in the women’s field, finishing 11th at 1:41.51.
Kevin Boyer Matches Career-Best 14th-Place Finish in Men’s Skeleton
Kevin Boyer, of Sherwood Park, Alta., matched his career-best finish for the second-straight week in 14th. One of the quickest starters in the field, the 24 year old punched the clock at 1:39.19.
Dave Greszczyszyn, of Brampton, Ont., grabbed the final spot in the top 15 after posting a two-run time of 1:39.25
Korea’s Sungbin Yun won the men’s race with a time of 1:37.32. Latvia’s Martins Dukurs slid to the silver medal at 1:37.95, while Germany’s Axel Jungk claimed third place with a time of 1:38.07.
Calgary’s Barrett Martineau did not qualify for the second run with the top-20 after finishing 22nd after the opening heat.
Team Spring Leads Canucks in Fifth in Four-Man Bobsleigh
One night removed from making history with three Canadians in the top-six and two sleds on the podium, it was Team Chris Spring leading the charge in fifth place.
Calgary’s Spring piloted his bronze-medal winning crew of Jesse Lumsden (Burlington, Ont.), Alex Kopacz (London, Ont.), and Seyi Smith (Ottawa) to a two-run time of 1:35.64. The top Canadian sled was in third place after their first trip down the 1,355-metre track, but dropped off the podium after a disappointing final run.
“I struggled all week at the top of the track here in Park City,” said Spring, whose crew had the fastest start times in the field for the second straight night. “The boys kept us in the race with the start times. I’m disappointed, but it’s really promising to know we can still bang out good results on sub-par performances from me. The mountains are calling though, and I’m excited to go home to Whistler and get back on the ice at the Whistler Sliding Centre.”
Germany’s Johannes Lochner won the race with his crew of Marc Rademacher, Christopher Weber and Christian Rasp after posting a time of 1:35.44. Amercians Codie Bascue, Nathan Weber, Carlo Valdes and Samuel McGuffie celebrated the silver at 1:35.49, while Bradley Hall, Bruce Tasker, Joel Fearon and Gregory Cackett stopped the clock at 1:35.56 to claim the bronze medal.
Justin Kripps (Summerland, B.C.), Lascelles Brown (Calgary), Ben Coakwell (Saskatoon) and Neville Wright (Edmonton) finished eighth at 1:35.72. Nick Poloniato (Hamilton), Cam Stones (Whitby, Ont.), Josh Kirkpatrick (London, Ont.), and Derek Plug (Calgary) placed 11th at 1:35.93.
The World Cup now travels north to the Whistler Sliding Centre for the lone Canadian stop on the elite circuit, November 24-25.