From the Home Office in Durham, USA
(Nov. 19, 2020) – Despite COVID, wildly changing weather, and the year 2020 being just the worst, the IBSF World Cup will in fact kick off this weekend in Sigulda, Latvia.
The season will start with a smaller field of sliders across all disciplines, with some teams sitting out for various reasons. Most plan on being on the World Cup circuit by the middle of the season in Winterberg.
In skeleton, both men’s and women’s races will have 18 sliders to start the season. In the women’s ranks, Germany will start the season with Tina Hermann, Jacquline Lölling, and Hannah Neise. Great Britain and Russia will also field teams of three, with Olympic bronze medalist Laura Deas leading the charge for the British, while Ashleigh Pittaway looks to build on her 2019/2020 season. European Cup champion Amelia Coltman finished in the top five in seven of the eight EC races held last season, but did not race in the event in Sigulda.
Janine Flock, Kim Meylemans, and Kimberley Bos will all try to improve on their top ten finishes to finish out the World Cup season last year, while Agathe Bessard, Anna Fernstädt, Valentina Margaglio and others will try to work their way in after a tougher race.
On the men’s side of things, the season starts favorably for the Dukurs brothers. Martins and Tomass went one-two to finish out the season last year on home ice, and now will have two races on home ice to start the year. Great Britain, Russia, and Germany are all sending three sliders to start the season, with Felix Keisinger joining Alexander Gassner and reigning World Champion Christopher Grotheer for Germany. Marcus Wyatt will anchor the British men, joined by Craig Thompson and Matt Weston, both of whom can match Wyatt at the start.
Rejoining the tour this season is Italian Mattia Gaspari, who has been away with injury. Teammate Amedeo Bagnis returns to bomb it off the top again, and looks to find his way into the top ten after a pair of 11th place finishes last season. Ukraine’s Vladyslav Heraskevych, Romania’s Mihai Pacioianu and others will look to improve on their 2019/2020 seasons.
In bobsled the fields are a little lighter, with only 13 two-man sleds and just nine women’s sleds to start the season.
For the men, Christoph Hafer joins Francesco Friedrich and Johannes Lochner, effectively moving into the spot vacated by the now-retired Nico Walther. For Latvia there will be three sleds on home ice, anchored by Oskars Kibermanis, but missing from the lineup will be Olympic gold medalist Oskars Melbardis. Per Latvian coach Sandis Prūsis, Melbardis hasn’t been in top form and thus was left off the first race roster. Melbardis is still overcoming a back injury and will likely join the tour later in the season.
Michael Vogt, Dominik Dvorak, and Romain Heinrich all showed they can run with the best and will look to find their way into the top six.
On the women’s side there’s just nine sleds, anchored by the three German sleds. In a surprising turn of events in team trials, Laura Nolte and Kim Kalicki finished one-two, ahead of Stephanie Schneider and Mariama Jamanka. In turn, Jamanka will be starting the season as the third German sled but will make away for Schneider Igls. After the first four races the team will decide on the lineup for the second half of the season.
Romania’s Andreea Grecu nearly won a gold medal in Latvia, and will look to do one place better in 2020’s opener. Three of the five women who finished ahead of Kati Beierl in the season finale are not racing to open the season, giving her a solid shot at a medal in the opening round.
Missing from the start of the World Cup season are the North Americans, with both the United States and Canada deciding to wait until after the holiday break to start their World Cup season. Canada has named their bobsled World Cup squad with no real surprise as far as their pilots go (Kripps, Spring, de Bruin, and Rissling). The United States is trying to get their selection races in, but a combination of global warming, COVID protocol, and a poorly-timed ammonia leak at the track in Lake Placid has led to a later than ideal start time for team trials.
The British bobsled squad will also miss the start of the season, but for different reasons. Brad Hall is out with a lower leg injury, and is expected to return after the tour makes its way to Igls for Races 3 and 4. Meanwhile, a member of the British Bobsleigh support team tested positive for COVID, meaning Mica McNeill will also be unable to race. Lamin Deen will be racing in European Cup for the start of the season, joining the World Cup tour when the four-man portion of the tour picks up in Winterberg.
Because of the COVID pandemic there’s a “who’s who” of athletes not starting the season in Sigulda, including Olympic gold medalist Sungbin Yun, Switzerland’s Marina Gilardoni, Belgium’s An Vannieuwenhuyse, Australia’s Jackie Narracott, Austria’s Benjamin Maier, and others. All expect to be on tour either in Igls or after the break in Winterberg.
For the full IBSF (and FIL) World Cup schedules, CLICK HERE