International Bobsleigh competition kicked off this past weekend at the Canadian Olympic Park in Calgary with a double header North America Cup event.
The North America Cup circuit is the development level competition just below the World Cup series.
In a strategic move Team Canada coaches elected to have Canada #3 (Team Kripps) compete in this season’s opener rather than have them accompany Canada #1 and #2 teams to Sochi, Russia for the official Olympic 2 week preseason training. The goal is for Canada #3 to have some extra valuable race experience and to hopefully garner some important points in their quest for an Olympic slot.
A first place finish in a NAC or a Europa Cup event is equivalent in points to a 13th place finish in a World Cup event.
Canada #3 will be vying with Germany #3, Russia #3 and USA #3 for Olympic qualification.
Other countries have used similar strategies.
Russia sent all three World Cup teams to this North America Cup circuit event, and USA sent both its #2 and #3 teams.
Suddenly this season opening North America Cup circuit event had turned into a mini World Cup event, with several smaller countries also sending their World Cup teams.
First up came the two-man event.
Canada #3, with Justin Kripps and rookie brakeman Bryan Barnett in his first ever international race, impressed with the fastest start times, but a slight driving error in the second heat cost them a couple of a hundredths of a second and they slipped from third to fifth place out of a field of 32 teams.
USA #2, Russia #1, USA#3 and Russia#2 finished in the top four spots.
In the second of the two-man events, Kripps paired up with brakeman Tim Randall.
Again they impressed with top start times and this time Kripps held on to secure the bronze medal.
In the four-man events the team of Kripps, Randall, James McNaughton and Barnett, who had never competed together before, consistently pulled out top start times and in the final heat of the weekend delivered the fastest start time of the whole competition, pushing out Russia #1, the reigning four-man world champions. Kripps rose to the occasion, drove four runs and the team finished with two silver medals, with only Russia #1 ahead of them in both events.
After the gruelling schedule of four big races in three days, the team will have a couple of rest days, then will be back on the ice preparing for the World Cup opener which will also be held in Calgary Nov. 28 to 30.
Complete race results can be found at www.bobsleighcanada.ca.