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Intercontinental Cup concludes first half in Sigulda
SIGULDA, Latvia (Dec. 18, 2011)–The Intercontinental Cup tour continued in Sigulda, Latvia with a two-race series this weekend. All five athletes on the U.S. roster met the demanding Latvian course for the first time and had only a handful of runs to solve its complicated sequence of curves.
“We have a young group of athletes that are meeting new challenging tracks each week,” said Brian McDonald, U.S. skeleton coach. “I think this team was hoping for better results thus far, but we need to keep in mind that we’re racing on new and difficult tracks for the first time. Some of our newer sliders will definitely gain from this experience of being overseas and competing against some world class athletes.”
Luke Schulz (Davenport, N.D.) led the U.S. men’s team after clocking combined times of 1:49.50 and 1:47.98 to finish 10th in the two race series. Sigulda was a new puzzle for Schulz, and while he was able to solve the pieces by the end of the week, he still struggled to string them together in one day.
“We came here hearing all of the horror stories about this track, and Sigulda definitely attempted to live up to that reputation,” Schulz said. “Curves 11, 13 and 15 can be real monsters.”
Schulz wrestled with the exit of corner 15 in the first race, but he still managed to post a top 10 finish after sliding runs of 54.61 and 54.89 seconds in the first race.
“I had a problem dumping the sled out of curve 15 and thought I had it figured out by the last day of training, but I crashed in my first race run,” Schulz said. “I was able to recover quickly, but you really can’t afford to have any mistakes.”
Schulz clocked runs of 54.05 and 53.93 seconds to improve his times in the second race to again lead the U.S. men with a 10th place finish. After learning two technical tracks to start the season, Schulz is eager to return to North America for the second half of tour.
“It’s been a fun first half, but I’m definitely looking forward to getting home, recharging and getting on some familiar tracks second half,” Schulz said.
Tom Santagato (Astoria, N.Y.) began competing internationally last season, and proved he was a threat for the national team after medaling in the America’s Cup series. The emerging athlete posted 14th and 16th place finishes after clocking combined times of 1:50.27 and 1:49.76.
“Sigulda definitely turned out to be one of the most technical tracks I’ve ever been to,” Santagato said. “I was able to make pretty good progress throughout the week leading up to the races. All week I had trouble with the last two turns on the track. Unfortunately, if you mess up there it costs you tons of time because it’s mostly uphill.
“I’m really looking forward to the second half of the season and racing on tracks that I’m more familiar with,” Santagato said. “My second race result left a sour taste in my mouth, but it makes me hungrier for the opportunity to race again and attempt to redeem myself.”
Greg West (Orange Beach, Ala.) learned the sport in April 2010, and surpassed his development class by earning a spot on the national team in selection races this fall. West has had shaky results as he not only learns the sport, but also a new track each week. West posted total times of 1:51.07 and 1:49.32 to finish 17th and 13th, respectively.
“This track is a ton of fun once you get over the reputation that precedes it,” West said. “It’s true that you have to be on your game from turn two down. Per my usual program this season, I trained well the day before the race, but I was considerably slower on race day.”
Michi Halilovic, Anton Batuev and Dave Swift claimed gold, silver and bronze, respectively, in both men’s races. German Halilovic slid combined times of 1:47.11 and 1:45.66 to dominate the Sigulda event. Batuev, an up-and-coming Russian athlete, clocked totals of 1:47.58 and 1:45.93 for double silver medals. Swift from Great Britain raced to the finish in 1:47.67 and 1:46.82 to add bronze medals to his growing resume.
Rachelle Rasmussen (Belmont, Calif.) was the sole women’s competitor for the U.S. team. After making her World Cup debut earlier this season, Rasmussen joined the Intercontinental Cup team for her second season on the circuit. The 27-year-old finished 14th and 15th after posting combined times of 1:53.23 and 1:52.20.
“I liked the track and had a lot of fun, but I was frustrated that I couldn’t put a run together,” Rasmussen said. “I got better on this track each day and had a personal record, but it wasn’t even close to what I needed to be in the mix.”
“Rachelle barely missed out on a World Cup spot last month, so I know she wants to prove herself on the Intercontinental Cup circuit,” McDonald said. “I need her to push the envelope a little more and concentrate on pointing the sled and letting it run instead of driving it as much.”
Savannah Graybill (Denver, Pa.) crashed on the last training day out of curve 11 and opted not to compete. Graybill just began the sport last season and has already rocketed to the national team. McDonald believes she has a lot of potential in the sport and is excited to watch her develop throughout the remainder of the season. The only injuries Graybill sustained were a few bumps and a bruised ego, but she felt it was best to cheer on her teammates instead of push it too hard.
“Fortunately, I wasn’t seriously injured, but it was enough to cause a lot of soreness and discomfort,” Graybill said. “I have full confidence that I would have made it down the track on race day, but I wouldn’t have been anywhere close to my potential. I’m disappointed about the circumstances, but training here had made me a better slider and I’m ready to get home to get back on track.”
The women’s Great Britain team swept the podium in the first race. Donna Creighton was victorious with a combined time of 1:49.84, while teammates Rose McGrandle and Lizzy Yarnold finished second and third with totals of 1:50.16 and 1:50.44, respectively.
McGrandle snagged gold in the second race with a total time of 1:48.30, while Yarnold claimed silver after clocking 1:48.99. Germany’s Sophie Griebel slid a two-run total of 1:49.02 for bronze.
Athletes will return home this weekend for the start of a month long break. The Intercontinental Cup tour will continue in North America with races Feb. 3-4 in Calgary Canada before concluding in Park City, Utah Feb.10-11.
“We all look forward to getting home to spend time with our families and friends for the Christmas and New Year’s break,” McDonald said. “We’ll have some time to refocus and get some additional training in before we head to Calgary and Park City. Look for this team to improve its results dramatically on home ice.”
For media inquiries, please contact Amanda Bird, USBSF Marketing & Communications Manager, at email@example.com, or at (518) 354-2250.
Women’s Skeleton Race #1
1. Donna Creighton (GBR) 1:49.84 (54.94, 54.90); 2. Rose McGrandle (GBR) 1:50.16 (54.96, 55.20); 3. Lizzy Yarnold (GBR) 1:50.44 (55.46, 54.98);…14. Rachelle Rasmussen (USA) 1:53.23 (56.56, 56.67);
Women’s Skeleton Race #2
1. Rose McGrandle (GBR) 1:48.30 (54.29, 54.01); 2. Lizzy Yarnold (GBR) 1:48.99 (54.55, 54.44); 3. Sophie Griebel (GER) 1:49.02 (54.46, 54.56);…15. Rachelle Rasmussen (USA) 1:52.20 (55.87, 56.33);
Men’s Skeleton Race #1
1. Michi Halilovic (GER) 1:47.11 (53.35, 53.76); 2. Anton Batuev (RUS) 1:47.58 (53.55, 54.03); 3. Dave Swift (GBR) 1:47.67 (53.45, 54.22);…10. Luke Schulz (USA) 1:49.50 (54.61, 54.89);…14. Tom Santagato (USA) 1:50.27 (55.10, 55.17);…17. Greg West (USA) 1:51.07 (55.36, 55.71);
Men’s Skeleton Race #2
1. Michi Halilovic (GER) 1:45.66 (52.86, 52.80); 2. Anton Batuev (RUS) 1:45.93 (52.89, 53.04); 3. Dave Swift (GBR) 1:46.82 (53.39, 53.43);…10. Luke Schulz (USA) 1:47.98 (54.05, 53.93);…13. Greg West (USA) 1:49.32 (54.70, 54.62);…16. Tom Santagato (USA) 1:49.76 (55.01, 54.75);
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The United States Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, based in Lake Placid, N.Y., is the national governing body for the sports of bobsled and skeleton in the United States. The USBSF would like to thank its sponsors, suppliers and contributors for their support: BMW of North America, Under Armour, United States National Guard, Kampgrounds of America, National Strength and Conditioning Association, Vivat!, Global Forwarding, KBC Helmets, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, EDAS/Ripxx, UberSense, Tesa Tape and Ferris Mfg. Corp. For more information, please visit the USBSF website at http://bobsled.teamusa.org.