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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, January 16, 2010

Olympics: United States locking up extra bobsled, skeleton spots

AP Sports Writer

U.S. women's bobsled driver Bree Schaaf is going to the Olympics, and Mike Kohn can start packing for Vancouver as well.

And the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation is having a weekend to savor.

Schaaf was 11th in a women's World Cup race at St. Moritz, Switzerland on Saturday, while Kohn was 12th in the two-man race. Those finishes were good enough to earn the United States three start positions in both Olympic disciplines, the maximum allotted to any nation for the Vancouver Games.

"Going to the Olympics will feel like going home, but I had to get there first by driving a new track every week," said Schaaf, who lives in Bremerton, Wash., not far from Vancouver. "I can't believe I get to walk in opening ceremonies. I dreamed about this, but now it's really real."

It's already been a successful weekend for the USBSF, the national governing body for bobsled and skeleton.

John Daly locked up a third start position again, the most allowed for the U.S. in men's skeleton by winning another Intercontinental Cup race on Friday night in Calgary, Alberta, and now Schaaf and Kohn did their part in bobsledding as well.

The only thing that remains undecided as far as Olympic start allocations for the U.S. is in four-man bobsledding. Kohn will try to secure a third start position in that discipline Sunday at St. Moritz.

"This is a crucial weekend," Darrin Steele, the CEO of the USBSF, said in a statement released by the federation.

Nothing becomes absolutely official until the International Federation of Bobsleigh and Tobogganing releases the final world rankings, but USBSF calculations show that the Americans have wrapped up three spots in two-man, women's bobsledding and men's skeleton.

That means Steven Holcomb, John Napier and Kohn will drive for the U.S. at the Whistler Sliding Center next month in bobsled.

"Kohn did what he needed to do, so it was a good day for the U.S.," Holcomb, the top American driver in the World Cup standings and the 2009 world four-man champion, said in St. Moritz on Saturday.

Shauna Rohbock, Erin Pac and Schaaf will drive for the women's bobsled team, and Eric Bernotas, Zach Lund and Daly are likely to compete in men's skeleton.

"I'm excited that we qualified three sleds, because I think all of us are competitive and have a chance to do well," said Rohbock, the 2006 Olympic silver medalist.

The U.S. earned only two women's skeleton spots, which will go to Katie Uhlaender and Noelle Pikus-Pace.

The USBSF has until Wednesday to announce its list of nominees, including bobsled push athletes. Daly finished ahead of the lone other remaining men's skeleton contender, Matt Antoine, in world ranking points, although his spot on the Olympic team has yet to be formally announced.

Germany's Andre Lange and Canada's Lyndon Rush tied for the two-man gold medal Saturday, while German women swept the podium spots in their race. Lange and Kevin Kuske finished in 2:12.34, as did Rush and Lascelles Brown. Edwin Van Calker and Sybren Jansma from the Netherlands were third.

In the women's race, Cathleen Martini and Romy Logsch won in 2:14.89, just 0.01 seconds ahead of Sandra Kiriasis and Christin Senkel. Claudia Schramm and Berit Wiacker were third, with Rohbock and Michelle Rzepka fifth for the U.S.

The formula used to calculate world rankings and Olympic spots is complex, but this weekend's drama in two-man largely came down to how many points Kohn could collect in the World Cup race as opposed to what Canada's Serge Despres could manage on the European Cup tour.

Kohn, with Curt Tomasevicz pushing his sled, earned an additional 128 World Cup points to move past Despres in the world rankings, according to calculations done by the USBSF.

"Curt gave him a great start, but ultimately it was up to Mike to drive well," Steele said. "Which he did."