LAKE PLACID - The bobs are back, and so are the skeletons.
Starting on Friday, Dec. 13, Lake Placid will host three days of action on ice as the FIBT World Cup tour makes its annual stop at the mile-long run on Mount Van Hoevenberg.
The schedule includes men's and women's bobsled and skeleton racing and the event kicks off at 8:30 a.m. Friday with two-man bobsledding. With the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics less than two months away, the World Cup here will take on even more significance, as many of the athletes who will be participating need solid results to help them qualify for to compete for their respective nations in Russia.
United States skeleton athlete Kyle Tress concentrates on the track as he begins a training run Dec. 11 at the Olympic Sliding Complex on Mount Van Hoevenberg. (Photo by Lou Reuter)
United States sliders come into Lake Placid with a head of steam after they captured 10 of the 18 medals that were awarded at last weekend's World Cup tour stop in Park City, Utah. Skeleton's Noelle Pikus-Pace, men's bobsled driver Steve Holcomb and women's pilot Elena Meyers all emerged with gold medals in Park City and are hoping to keep the American streak going on home ice this weekend in Lake Placid.
"I started the sport in Park City; that's my home track, but I absolutely love this track," Pikus-Pace said Dec. 11 after completing her second training run. "My runs today were sloppy, I was all over the place, so I have some things to work out.
"My goal here isn't necessarily winning," added Pikus-Pace, who is expected to be one of the favorites to win gold in Sochi. "I've had about 200 runs on this track. My goal is to fix the problems I've been having one curve at a time. If I can do that, everything should come together."
American skeleton athlete John Daly, who hails from Smithtown and attended SUNY Plattsburgh, is looking to claim a medal. And if he can pull that off on his home track, it will be the first of his World Cup career. Daly will be joined by U.S. teammates Matt Antoine and Kyle Tress in the men's skeleton race, which is scheduled for Friday.
"I think we as Americans have a huge advantage here," Daly said Dec. 10 during training. "Me, Matt and Kyle have slid together in Lake Placid for the past 13 years. This is our home track. This is where I learned to slide.
"My goal is winning a medal," Daly continued. "The top six get to the podium, but I want a medal. I've had a bunch of fourth-place finishes, and a few of those times, I've been one- or two-hundredths of a second away from a medal. I've been knock, knock, knocking on the door, but I haven't gotten in yet."
Holcomb heads into Lake Placid as the most successful bobsledder on the World Cup tour this season. In fact, the veteran driver and defending Olympic champion from Park City, Utah is unbeaten after four World Cup events after he won both the two- and four-man races in Park City and Calgary, Canada. Holcomb also won World Championship titles in Lake Placid when Mount Van Hoevenberg hosted the event in 2009 and 2012.
Nick Cunningham, who pilots USA 2, also claimed a silver medal a week ago in two-man racing in Park City.
All three U.S. women pilots have kicked off their seasons with shocking success. In three World Cup races held so far, Myers has two wins and silver medal-finish, while teammates Jamie Greubel and Jasmine Fenlator have also driven their way into the medals. On Sunday, Dec. 7, the Americans bid farewell to their Park City stay by sweeping the top three spots.
This year's World Cup racing in Lake Placid runs through Sunday. As an added bonus, the weekend of competition will include an second women's skeleton race and an additional men's two-man bobsled race.