The U.S. national bobsled team selection races were supposed to start in Lake Placid, New York, last weekend. Then Monday. Then Tuesday. Now they won’t start until Friday.

And even that’s tentative.

The Olympic season is not off to an ideal start for American bobsledders. Unseasonably warm weather has kept sliders off the track for several days, thrice delaying the selection races that U.S. officials still hope can be wrapped up this weekend in time to choose members of a national team — some of whom will leave for training on the Olympic track in South Korea next week.

Olympic spots won’t be picked anytime soon. But getting on the national team is almost a prerequisite for making the Olympic roster, which means this weekend’s selection races are going to be make or break for some hopefuls.

“It’s definitely been kind of like an emotional whirlwind, because there’s so much riding on the races,” U.S. women’s bobsledder Brittany Reinbolt said Tuesday, as she sat outside with nothing to do. “Every single day it gets pushed back. This is my seventh season and in bobsled, you kind of learn to prepare for anything.”

The forecast gives icemakers some hope over the next couple days. Even with daytime highs reaching the 60s, workers at the Mount Van Hoevenberg track that the bobsled team calls home should see some temperatures that fall a bit below freezing on Wednesday and Thursday nights. That will allow them to get a decent ice surface on the refrigerated track and means racing might happen Friday and Saturday.

The only competition sure to happen this week was the annual team lip-sync event at the Olympic Training Center.

“Our whole summer, some whole careers has been preparing for this week, really,” Reinbolt said. “The reality is it’s going to be harder to make the U.S. team than the Olympic team. So yeah, there’s just a lot riding on it.”

The women’s schedule calls for races Friday and Saturday, with drivers using different push athletes each day. The men have a pair of two-man runs on Friday, then a pair of four-man runs on Tuesday.

Women’s drivers Elana Meyers Taylor and Jamie Greubel Poser have byes onto the national team already. Everyone else is vying for spots that will be filled taking a number of different criteria into consideration.

Nick Cunningham is virtually certain of making the men’s national team, but he’s one of the few bobsledders who might be enjoying these weather delays. The veteran driver popped a hamstring during a sprinting test in Lake Placid last week, and every day off is helping him recover a bit more.

“Happy is probably an understatement,” Cunningham said. “I’ve had a lot of things not go my way. I wish the injury could have never happened, but every day I feel significantly better and can work out and start running. I went from someone who would struggle making any team to being in a position to where I can go out and win this thing.”

The U.S. skeleton team got its four-race trials series underway last weekend in Calgary, Alberta, with the first two races. They’re scheduled to wrap up in Lake Placid next week, before the national team picks head to South Korea for training.

USA Luge isn’t being affected by the weather issues. The Americans opened their on-ice training season in Norway, and hold their first seeding race on the 2010 Olympic track in Whistler, British Columbia, on Friday. The weather there has been close to ideal: 40s during the day, 20s at night, meaning there’s no quality-of-ice worries.

“Everyone’s handling the stress pretty well,” Reinbolt said. “We haven’t actually competed against each other yet.”

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TIM REYNOLDS
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