Road To The Olympic Games


Helen Upperton, CBC analyst, previews bobsleigh World Cup weekend

The bobsleigh World Cup event is taking place this weekend at Lake Placid, N.Y., and retired Canadian pilot and Olympic silver medallist Helen Upperton offers up her predictions for who will master one of the world's most technical courses.

World's best battle for gold on 'the devil's highway'

Two-time Olympic champion Kaillie Humphries, right, will pilot the first-ever all woman, four-person crew at the World Cup competition this weekend at Lake Placid, N.Y. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

With the World Cup circuit finally out of Germany, there will hopefully be more of a variety of flags flying behind the podium at this weekend's bobsleigh event.

Up until now, the German sliders racked up 19 World Cup medals in the first three weeks of competition. Now, as the circuit moves to North America, hopefully we will see some more variety in the flags flying behind the podium.

But this weekend's World Cup takes place at Lake Placid, N.Y. The track, which was rebuilt in 2000, is considered one of the more technical tracks in the world, which is code for a high-crash rate. With 20 corners and a section of track called "the devil's highway," what else could you expect?

So expect to see some exciting action this weekend, all of which you can stream live exclusively on CBC

Men's bobsleigh

On to the powerhouses in the bobsleigh event, where the two-man race is a very tight field on the men's side.

Canadians Justin Kripps and Alex Kopacz have an outside shot for a podium finish. Their Canadian teammate Chris Spring has two-time Olympic medallist Lascelles "The King" Brown back on the brakes of his two-man sled. But I want to see how this team pushes before putting them in medal contention. I know Spring loves this track so I'm hoping we will have two Canadian teams in the top 10 this week.

We can bet on a German being up there so I'm picking Francesco Friedrich. He won the race last year and he's running out of trophy space in his living room from this season alone. He's leading both the two-man and four-man standings. Thanks to him, I'm pretty sure all the other teams have learned the words to the German National anthem by now.

Women's bobsleigh

The women's field this winter has been very small and not overly competitive. Last year in Lake Placid, the American women swept the podium, with Canadian Kaillie Humphries finishing fifth. That won't happen again.

Defending World Champion Elana Meyers Taylor has elected to skip a few more World Cups. That could be due to a concussion she suffered in the first half of the season, or to her coaches sending her to train in Austria where the world championships are being held next month in Innsbruck, Austria. 

So, I'm calling it right now: American Jamie Grubel-Poser will win, with Humphries taking second, and the third spot is up for grabs.

The juicy stuff

Back in November there was controversy surrounding the Canadian four-man competition. All the fuss was about Canada sending only one team in the four-man event on the World Cup circuit, and a very vocal Humphries was up in arms with the national governing body claiming they referred to her as a "tourist" rather than a competitor. She even played the "because I'm a girl" card.

Well here's the scoop: Canada is jumping from just one sled in the four-man competition to three! A total of seven male brakemen have met the Canadian push standard over the Christmas break and the coaches have done some shuffling within the teams. Derek Plug has joined Kopacz and Coakwell as the crew of the top Canadian sled piloted by Kripps. Spring is back behind the ropes of the four-man with Kirkpatrick, Brown and CFL wide receiver for the Montreal Alouettes, Sam Giguere, who raced on the World Cup briefly prior to the 2014 Olympics.

Canada's third sled, piloted by the two-time Olympian and two-time world champion Humphries, will be the first all woman, four-person crew to ever race in a World Cup competition in hopes that the international governing body might actually create a separate event for the women. These ladies are bracing the storm of change and progress.

Devastating news hits sliding community

The start of the training week began with some devastating news for the sliding community with the loss of four-time Olympic bobsledder Malcolm Gomer Lloyd, who raced for Great Britain.

"Gomer" Lloyd was coaching with the national Korean bobsleigh team but over the last few decades coached numerous nations, including many years spent with the Canadian program. Most recently, he was the head coach of the Canadian women's team at the Torino Olympics in 2006. He had a huge personality and infectious passion for the sport. He will be greatly missed.


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