Great Britain enjoyed a heady weekend of success on the bobsleigh and skeleton tracks at the Lake Placid World Cup, adding to the impression that the team is on course to improve on its solitary medal from the 2010 Winter Olympics.
The four-man bobsleigh team performed superbly to secure silver in their event on Sunday, its first podium finish since 1997 and just 0.07 seconds behind Olympic champions the USA. Led by John Jackson, the Britons saw off the challenges of Germany and Canada – the other medalists in Vancouver – to secure a finish that ranked six places higher than their previous best of the season, suggesting that they are now genuine medal contenders when the 2014 Olympic Winter Games begin in Sochi.
Great Britain has more of an established pedigree in the skeleton, and they underlined their Sochi credentials at the weekend. Four years after her compatriot Amy Williams won gold for Team GB in the women’s skeleton, Lizzy Yarnold looks a good bet to follow in her footsteps after topping the podium in Lake Placid. Yarnold came in three tenths of a second ahead of Austria’s Janine Plock, who edged America’s Noelle Pikus-Pace into third place. It continued the 25 year-old’s Briton’s hot streak on the ice. The 2012 Junior World Champion won gold in the season’s opening race in Calgary, following that with a silver in Park City and a bronze in Lake Placid that came two days before her latest win. Like her counterparts in the men’s bobsleigh, she appears to be hitting form at the perfect time – with the Winter Olympics now a mere seven weeks away.
Other winners at Lake Placid were USA’s Steven Holcomb and Christopher Fogt in the two-man bob – an event in which the Americans enjoyed a clean sweep on the podium – Canadians Kaillie Humphreys and Heather Moyse in the two-woman bob, and USA’s Matthew Antoine in the men’s skeleton.
Zoeggeler on track for Sochi record
While Lake Placid played host to some new Olympic medal hopefuls, one of winter sport’s most decorated names was limbering up nicely in the luge. Italy’s Armin Zoeggeler came out on top in Saturday’s World Cup race in Park City, finishing ahead of USA’s Chris Mazdzer and edging his way to fourth in the overall standings – closing the gap on leader and Olympic rival Felix Loch. Zoeggeler, who turns 40 a month before Sochi 2014, has taken time to establish a rhythm this year – this was his first win of the season and only his second podium in five events. “To be quite honest, before the race I toyed a bit with the idea of a podium finish,” he said modestly. “But it's really a big surprise that I achieved the top spot in the end.”
Remarkably, the man they call “the Cannibal” will gunning for a medal at a sixth consecutive Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, and his timely return to form suggests that he can improve on the bronze we won at Vancouver 2010.
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Watch Zoeggeler's bronze run from Vancouver 2010: