Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bobsled Key Athletes

According to the NBC Olympics website, the top five countries with the most gold medals in bobsled are: Switzerland, Germany, US, Italy, and Canada. Here’s a list of each country’s main contenders for the gold this year:

Sabina Hafner
Beat Hefti
Ivo Rueegg

Karl Angerer
Thomas Florschuetz
Sandra Kiriasis
Andre Lange
Cathleen Martini
Claudia Schramm

Steve Holcomb
John Napier
Shauna Rohbock
Erin Pac
Bree Schaaf
Helen Upperton


Simone Bertazzo

Kailli Humphries
Pierre Lueders
Lyndon Rush
Helen Upperton

Some athletes in particular catch the eye of the NBC Olympics website in their “What To Expect” article on bobsledding:

Andre Lange- Germany's Andre Lange, who has won two straight Olympic gold medals in four-man, is also the defending champion in two-man. In Torino, he became just the fifth driver ever to win two-man and four-man gold at the same Games and the third athlete (second driver) to win three career bobsled gold medals. In 2008, he won the overall World Cup crown for the fourth time and claimed both the two- and four-man world titles. Last season was more challenging -- Lange struggled with injuries to his crew and equipment problems -- but he still managed a silver medal showing in four-man at the 2009 World Championships. Lange now has 17 career world and Olympic medals, one more than Italian bobsled legend Eugenio Monti.

Steve Holcomb
- The U.S. men were shut out of the medals in Torino, but Steve Holcomb has since solidly established his place among the world's top drivers. He claimed the overall World Cup title in 2006-07 and at the 2009 World Championships, the Park City native drove his four-man "Night Train" sled to the first world title for the American men in half a century, beating Andre Lange by nearly a second. That win came one year after a degenerative eye condition left Holcomb legally blind and on the brink of retiring from the sport. He had collamer lenses inserted behind each iris, an experimental procedure that improved his vision from 20-500 to 20-20 in about 10 minutes, and his career was back on track.

Nicola Minichiello- Looking to expand the British bobsled program, Nicola Minichiello turned to modern means: Facebook. The two-time Olympian and former heptathlete sent friend requests to athlete acquaintances in track and field and rugby. Gillian Cooke, who had been a pole vaulter and long jumper, accepted and a few weeks later, received a message asking if she wanted a shot at being Minichiello's brakeman. By August 2008, she was testing out her abilities on a push track. And six months later, the duo was celebrating Great Britain's first world title in 44 years. Minichiello will look capitalize on her world championship momentum in Vancouver, something she was unable to accomplish last time around. Minichiello had a strong showing at the previous pre-Olympic World Championships, finishing second in 2005, but ended up ninth in Torino.

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