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Back On Ice: Some US Sliders Finally Able To Begin Seasons

Back On Ice: Some US Sliders Finally Able To Begin Seasons

Some U.S. luge, bobsled and skeleton athletes have rejoined the international World Cup sliding circuits, after they all stayed home for the first half of the season because of issues related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Some U.S. luge, bobsled and skeleton athletes have rejoined the international World Cup sliding circuits, after they all stayed home for the first half of the season because of issues related to the coronavirus pandemic.

There are some exceptions: most athletes and coaches who are members of the U.S. Armys World Class Athlete Program will not be with their teams for the remainder of the season, a list that includes USA Bobsled coach Mike Kohn. The Army hasnt signed off on letting soldiers in that program, which includes more than a dozen Olympic sports, compete yet while citing concerns about the rising numbers of positive COVID-19 cases both in the U.S. and around the world.

Friday marked the first day of actual international competition for American sliders, with USA Luge taking part in a Nations Cup race in Knigssee, Germany. That was a precursor to this weekends World Cup races there, and seven of the eight U.S. sleds that competed qualified for races Saturday and Sunday.

USA Luge athletes and coaches all had to get three negative COVID-19 tests in a three-day span before rejoining the circuit, and the International Luge Federation has been able to pull off four race weekends already this season without any major virus issues.

I am so happy to be back in the World Cup, said USA Luges Summer Britcher, who was third in the womens Nation Cup race Friday and was the top-ranked American in last seasons World Cup standings.

The U.S. bobsled and skeleton teams flew to Germany this week and will re-join the World Cup circuit in Winterberg on Jan. 9 and 10. Kohn, along with a handful of other coaches and USA Bobsled and Skeleton athletes, remained home to comply with the WCAP mandates for safety.

Brian Shimer will serve as the acting on-site head coach for bobsled, while Kohn will remain involved from his home in Lake Placid, New York, the teams training base. A bright side for him: This will be the first time that hes home for the birthdays for his wife and their two sons. He usually misses those because they all occur during sliding season.

Just because youre not on the World Cup racing, if youre maximizing your opportunities back at home, there are gains that can be made, Kohn said. It frees me up to manage and direct and organize a lot of things that I wouldnt be able to if I was in Europe right now.

Many of the top U.S. sliders are now in Europe, a list that includes reigning womens bobsled champion Kaillie Humphries, three-time Olympic bobsled medalist Elana Meyers Taylor, 2018 Olympic mens luge silver medalist Chris Mazdzer and womens luge world championship medalist Emily Sweeney. Lolo Jones, a three-time Olympian two in track and field, one in bobsled and seeking to make the 2022 Olympic team as a push athlete, is also among the Americans who were picked to compete this winter.

It is possible that some more Americans could head over for racing before the season ends. WCAP officials are monitoring the COVID-19 numbers and how the sliding sports are combating the virus regularly and will re-evaluate as needed. Sweeney is a longtime WCAP athlete; shes competing this weekend because shes not currently on orders.

Weve got to place the health and safety of the soldiers first, said Willie Wilson, the WCAP chief. When youre competing or youre actively involved in something, youre laser-focused on accomplishing that goal. … Were having to make tough decisions right now and trying to make the right and best decision for the entire program.

USA Luge could compete in six events over the next six weekends, including the world championships in Knigssee at the end of January. USA Bobsled and Skeleton could be in as many as five competitions, culminating in the world championships for those sports in Altenberg, Germany, over the first two weeks of February.


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