USA Bobsled, citing pandemic, skipping some World Cup races

USA Bobsled and Skeleton is not sending sliders to Europe for at least the first half of the World Cup sliding season, part of a plan to keep its athletes and coaches as safe as possible during the coronavirus pandemic.

At a minimum, the Americans are planning to miss four World Cup weekends — two in Sigulda, Latvia, in November and two in Igls, Austria, in December. There are eight World Cup weekends on the schedule, plus the world championships that were moved from the U.S. team’s home base in Lake Placid, New York, because of the pandemic and quarantining concerns.

“We are taking every precaution necessary to ensure the safety of our athletes, coaches, and staff members,” USABS CEO Aron McGuire said.

The Americans intend to be on the ice in Lake Placid for training for more than two weeks in November, will start their team trials races there, then shift to Park City, Utah, for more training and then the conclusion of team trials. For now, the national teams are scheduled to be revealed on Dec. 16.

Training in Lake Placid and Park City could mean sliders get hundreds of runs, far more than they would have gotten by traveling internationally. It also would allow the Americans to test countless setups and different equipment, another luxury that wouldn’t exist in a traditional World Cup schedule.

The races that would matter most to the Americans this winter would be the world championships — Kaillie Humphries is the reigning women’s bobsled world champion — and the pre-Olympics test event at the newly built track for the 2022 Beijing Games. International sliders are expected to train and compete on that track for the first time in March.

Worlds are in Altenberg, Germany, over the first two weeks of February. It is possible that the Americans wouldn’t travel abroad until then, though for now there is still some hope that the U.S. teams would compete in three January World Cups — two in Germany, one in Switzerland.

USA Luge is still hoping to be part of that sport’s full World Cup schedule this season, though it won’t formalize any plans until perhaps as late as Oct. 31. Luge officials are continuing to gather information before making final decisions.

Three major sliding events — bobsled and skeleton worlds in Lake Placid, luge worlds in Whistler, Canada, and a luge World Cup in Lake Placid — were moved out of North America in recent weeks by international officials, citing concerns that athletes from some nations would be unwilling or unable to come to the U.S. and Canada during the pandemic and a lack of clarity about whether a lengthy quarantine period would be required.