Bascue, Olsen, Cunningham picked as USA bobsled men’s pilots
Codie Bascue, Justin Olsen and Nick Cunningham are going to start the Olympic season as drivers on USA Bobsled’s men’s national team.
It’s the first time in 20 seasons that Steven Holcomb — the longtime pilot of USA-1 — is not on the national team.
Holcomb died unexpectedly in May.
“It’s been a challenge for the team to move forward without the security of knowing we could count on Steven Holcomb to pull us through,” USA Bobsled and Skeleton CEO Darrin Steele said. “Every one of these athletes and coaches has accepted this unfamiliar dynamic for finding success at the Olympic Games with an unspoken mantra; ‘If it’s to be, it’s up to me.’ I’m proud of the character they’ve shown and I look forward to seeing what they can do.”
The World Cup bobsled season starts in Lake Placid, New York, on Nov. 9.
Olsen and Cunningham are bidding for their third Olympic trips. Olsen was in Holcomb’s sled as a push athlete when the U.S. won a four-man gold medal in Vancouver in 2010, and Cunningham won the four-man national team trials race earlier Friday.
Bascue won the two-man team trials and finished second in the four-man race.
Two-time Olympian and two-time medalist Steven Langton headlines a field of 12 push athletes selected to the team, along with two-time Olympian Chris Fogt and rising U.S. star Evan Weinstock, who helped Olsen set a Lake Placid track record for two-man start time during the trials.
Other returning national-team push athletes are Hakeem Abdul-Saboor, Christopher Kinney, Sam McGuffie, Sam Michener, Jimmy Reed, Nic Taylor and Carlo Valdes, who spent last season pushing for Holcomb.
There are two rookies on the national team, one of them being Nathan Weber — an active U.S. Army Special Forces member.
Also on the national team as a push athlete for the first time is 2012 U.S. Summer Olympian Ryan Bailey, who was on the team that won a silver medal in the 400-meter relay at the London Games and had those medals stripped three years later after Tyson Gay — a member of that relay team — tested positive for steroids.
Part of the sanctions against Gay was the annulling of results over a period that included the London Games, so the entire relay was affected and Bailey lost his medal.
“I am beyond impressed by the talent of the push athletes on the men’s team,” Steele said. “We expect to have competitive push teams heading into the Olympic season, but we rarely see this depth. ... I did not expect the selection of this team to be anywhere near this difficult. That’s a good problem to have.”
Olsen is among the Americans who traveled to South Korea to take part in an international training week that starts Sunday (Saturday night EDT) on the Olympic course in Pyeongchang.
The four-man trials race was originally scheduled to be contested last weekend, but warm fall weather in Lake Placid forced several postponements to the trials schedule. Olsen was the lone U.S. men’s pilot going to South Korea, and the delays meant he had to skip the four-man race.
“Unfortunately, we probably picked the warmest October in Lake Placid history to get on ice this early,” USA Bobsled coach Brian Shimer said. “The team has been really patient, and they’ve been doing a great job rolling with the punches in an already stressful season.”