Canada’s women’s and men’s bobsleigh athletes made their mark with a double silver-medal performance in their first World Cup race of the season on Saturday in Altenberg, Germany.
Christine de Bruin (Stony Plain, Alta.) and Kristen Bujnowski (Mount Brydges, Ont.) jumped onto the World Cup bobsleigh podium for the first time of their careers with a silver in the women’s race. Justin Kripps (Summerland, B.C.) and Cam Stones (Whitby, Ont.), celebrated their birthday weekend with a silver of their own in the men’s two-man race. Kripps turns 32 on Sunday, while Stones blew out 27 candles on the cake today.
It was the Canadian squad’s first World Cup race of the post-Olympic season.
“I did not expect this, so it feels amazing,” said an elated de Bruin. “My only focus was on making sure I had clean runs. I knew if I nailed corners, one, nine and 14 the results would take care of itself. But silver? I am super excited and happy,.”
A seventh-place finisher at the 2018 Olympics, the 29-year-old de Bruin captured the world’s attention with the silver-medal slide on the tricky 1,413-metre track in Altenberg, Germany after clocking a two-run time of 1:57.56.
“Altenberg is my second favourite track to Lake Placid. They are similar because they are driver’s tracks, and I am a driver through and through,” added de Bruin.
The Canadian sled posted top-5 starts in both runs thanks to the 26-year-old Bujnowski providing the horsepower at the back of the sled. It was Bujnowski’s first World Cup race with de Bruin.
Bujnowski was an alternate on the Canadian Team at the 2018 Olympic Games.
A podium appeared to be a long shot for the top Canadian sled which was in sixth place after their first blast down the 17-corner track which was being pelted with rain for the duration of the race. A fourth-place start time propelled the Canucks to the second-fastest second-run time (58.38) to secure the silver spot on the podium.
“Buj and I have always hit it off. We have always been able to have fun together and she definitely helped me stay relaxed in the drive. She is able to embrace the pressure but have fun at the same time,” said de Bruin, who credited her Olympic experience for Saturday’s success.
“Competing at the Olympics has taught me no matter who is watching, no matter what is happening around me, to enjoy the track, enjoy the pressures in the corners and enjoy the speed. Everything else doesn’t matter as long as I am enjoying the process and the track.”
The Canadians finished .31 behind Germany’s Mariama Jamanka and Annika Drazek who combined for the gold medal with a time of 1:57.25. Elana Meyers Taylor and Lake Kwaza, of the United States, were third at 1:57.64.
Canada’s other women’s sled driven by Edmonton’s Alysia Rissling and rookie brakemen from Calgary, Bianca Ribi, were hunting down a podium after sitting in second spot after their first run. But a costly mistake early in their second heat dropped them to 10th place at 1:58.61.
Justin Kripps and Cam Stones win two-man silver
Newly united, Justin Kripps and Cam Stones, also slid into the new year with a bang winning the silver medal in the men’s two-man race.
Kripps slid to his ninth World Cup two-man podium of his career, clocking a two-run time of 1:52.19 on the 17-corner track. He also captured Olympic gold in 2018 and has a World Championship silver in the two-man discipline.
“It’s awesome. We haven’t done any World Cups yet this year, so it is hard to know where you stack up against the big boys. It was awesome to come out and get a medal in the first race,” said Kripps, who dominated the Europe Cup development circuit prior to the holiday break – a strategic move led by the high performance team at Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton.
Kripps won the Altenberg two-man race last year. Sitting atop the leaderboard after the first run, it appeared he was on track to successfully defend that title, but a skid in his first corner on the second run was too much time to make up, dropping him into second place on one of the toughest tracks in the world.
“I like this track. It was great to get that win on my birthday last year, and to win the silver with Cam on his birthday today is pretty awesome,” said Kripps. “The conditions were opposite this year. It was pouring rain and warm, so I had two sets of runners ready and I chose them right before the race.
“Cam and I raced together a couple of times on the Europe Cup and were out starting those guys a fair bit, so I knew we had a good shot today. It’s nice to confirm that we can compete with the big boys.”
The Canadian sled was knocked off the golden step of the podium by a nearly flawless second run put down by Germany’s Francesco Friedrich and Thorsten Margis. Friedrich, who tied Kripps for the Olympic gold in 2018, drove to a two-run time of 1:52.19 on his home track.
Latvia’s Oskars Kibermanis and Matiss Miknis slid to the bronze at 1:52.67.
The timing was perfect for Stones, a member of Canada’s 2018 Olympic Team who has predominantly raced four-man since joining the Canadian program in 2016, to win his first career two-man medal.
“It was awesome to come to the finish and know we got the silver,” said Stones. “Our girls made a birthday sign for me and the German crowd all started singing happy birthday, so it was pretty cool.”
Racing the World Cup together for the first time, the friends off the track showed instant chemistry, posting the fifth and third-fastest start times.
“There are definitely expectations when you are in Justin’s sled and I obviously wanted to live up to those. There were also big expectations racing on a track where he won last year so I was aware of that,” said Stones. “The goal was to be within striking distance of the big dogs (Germans) at the start. Those guys are monsters, so it was good to see how we stacked up against them.”
Nick Poloniato (Hamilton) and Ben Coakwell (Saskatoon) teamed up in the other Canadian sled to finish 14th (1:53.63).
The World Cup continues on Sunday in Altenberg with the four-man competition.