Canada's Christine de Bruin sits 4th at midway point of Olympic women's bobsleigh
Fellow Canadian pilots Appiah 8th, Lotholz 16th, while leader Nolte sets track mark
Christine de Bruin made a wise decision not to make major changes to her race approach ahead of Friday's second run to open the Olympic two-woman bobsleigh competition.
Her and brakewoman Kristen Bujnowski ended up going late into the ninth corner following a little hit, but otherwise put forth a strong effort, moving up a spot to fourth place in a combined time of two minutes 3.21 seconds halfway through the event in Beijing.
"I just tweaked a little in corner nine [otherwise] kept things the same," the Canadian pilot, who was seventh in her 2018 Winter Games debut, told CBC Sports. "Usually when I start overthinking [and] trying to finesse things it gets way worse. Let's just make two solid runs down the track and that's what I did."
Germany's Laura Nolte leads the field of 20 in 2:02.05 entering the final two heats on Saturday at 7 a.m. ET after setting a track record of 1:01.01 in her second run. Teammate Mariama Jamanka, the defending Olympic champion, is second in 2:02.55, ahead of American Elana Meyers Taylor (2:02.79) who is 42-100ths of a second in front of de Bruin.
Former Canadian team member Kaillie Humphries, now competing for the United States, dropped a spot to fifth (2:03.38) after two runs with first-time Olympian Kaysha Love.
WATCH | De Bruin close to bronze-medal position after 2 bobsleigh runs:
Toronto native Cynthia Appiah (2:03.64) held eighth position from the opening run with brakewoman Dawn Richardson Wilson, while Melissa Lotholz of Barrhead, Alta., sits 16th (2:04.21) with pusher Sara Villani of Norval, Ont.
The consistently impressive de Bruin of Stony Plain, Alta., skidded in her first run and cut ice at the bottom of the track at Yanqing National Sliding Centre. She is coming off her first Olympic podium finish, grabbing monobob bronze on Monday in the sport's debut at the Games.
De Bruin, who ranks fourth this season in two-man on the strength of four bronze in eight World Cup starts, finished among the top five during her training runs in Beijing.
Four years ago, the 32-year-old placed seventh with Lotholz, a converted brakewoman who once pushed for Humphries.
Bujnowski, 29, served as an alternate at the 2018 Olympics and sat out last season because of COVID-19 restrictions after straining her right calf.
"I've been pretty nervous the past couple of days, on and off, but when we got to the track I felt really calm and not stressed about racing," said the Mount Brydges, Ont., native, who finished third with de Bruin at an Olympic test event four months ago in Beijing. "I think that comes from Christine and her experience already doing monobob and being a [previous] Olympian."
Appiah, 31, has collected three top-10 finishes this season with a best of seventh (2:16.81) at the World Cup finale a month ago in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
'Marked improvement' from monobob final
Eighth in this week's monobob, Appiah jumped in a bobsled for the first time a year after the 2010 Games in Vancouver after bobsled scouts spotted her at York University in Toronto.
"It's a marked improvement from the monobob," she said. "I was just telling myself to have fun and I was getting the training runs that I expected of myself. I just tried to manifest that in the race today.
"I don't think there's much to improve on. We've been nailing the starts, which has always been a strong suit of ours. It's just a matter of putting two more consistent runs like I did today."
"This is where I was supposed to be" 👏<br><br>Olympic bobsled debutant, Dawn Richardson-Wilson on what it means to represent more than just your country on the world's largest stage <br><br>WATCH ‘Being Black in Canada at the Olympic Games': <a href="https://t.co/VybzDnfc5u">https://t.co/VybzDnfc5u</a> <a href="https://t.co/fswcheXULJ">pic.twitter.com/fswcheXULJ</a>—@CBCOlympics
The former track and field athlete was ready to quit bobsleigh in 2018 after being told she would be an alternate on the Canadian team at the Pyeongchang Olympics, but pressed on and transitioned to being a pilot on the track.
Humphries, Monday's monobob gold medallist, is seeking a fifth Olympic medal and fourth gold but has some work to do. She is nearly 6-10ths away from what currently is the bronze position.
Nolte is the youngest pilot on the German bobsleigh team at 23, but is already a decorated Olympian, having won gold at the 2016 Youth Olympic Games.
WATCH | Nolte leads 2-woman event after setting track record:
She has remained at the front of the field since her first World Cup appearance in January 2020, missing the podium only four times over 18 events the past two years entering these Games.
"Today was a really good show. We have to do the same [on Saturday]," said Nolte of her and brakewoman Deborah Levi.
Jamanka, who posted the fastest practice time this week at 1:01.54, is planning to retire after the competition. Sixth on the World Cup circuit this season, the 31-year-old picked up three second-place finishes and a European championship silver while placing second at the Olympic trials last October.
The Germans are winners of gold medals in seven of the eight sliding events so far in Beijing, a record for any nation, and its 12 medals — and counting — ties what East Germany and West Germany managed in 1976 in Innsbruck, Austria.
WATCH | Full replay of 2-woman bobsleigh - Heat 2:
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With files from The Associated Press