TWO-WOMAN BOBSLED: HEATS 1 AND 2
AT THE MIDPOINT:
- Laura Nolte/Deborah Levi, GER, 2:02.05
- Mariama Jamanka/Alexandra Burghardt, GER, (+ 0.50)
- Elana Meyers Taylor/Sylvia Hoffman, USA, (+ 0.74)
It's going to be a nail-biter, but Germany is definitely in command at the halfway mark of two-woman bobsled.
The first portion of the bobsled race saw Germany's Laura Nolte blast the fastest two heats for a 2:02.05-minute total. Her half-minute lead may be impossible to beat.
Meanwhile, the event's defending gold medalist Mariama Jamanka sped to a somewhat surprising second following mixed results during the most recent World Cup season, plus a poor performance in Olympic monobob.
Elana Meyers Taylor, the American monobob silver medalist, received a special surprise just ahead of her runs — and landed firmly in third at the midpoint. She'll be the Team USA flagbearer for the Closing Ceremony.
Team USA's monobob gold medalist Kaillie Humphries dropped to fifth standing at the midpoint with two slightly flawed runs, and will have to fight her way to the podium.
Germany's Nolte, starting fourth, was the first real medal contender to take to the ice: She had gone undefeated in Training Heats 3 through 6, and ranked second in the 2021-22 Bobsled World Cup two-woman standings. The 23-year-old narrowly missed bronze in the monobob event after a pair of mediocre heats. Backed by pusher Deborah Levi, the German immediately spit out a blazing 1:01.04-minute track record, despite a slip-up near the ninth curve.
Countrywoman Kim Kalicki, with pusher Lisa Marie Buckwitz, barreled down the course next. Despite a clean run, Kalicki bled major time — half a second off the lead — and stood in sixth a quarter of the way through the event.
Not even Team USA's Humphries and pusher Kaysha Love could match Nolte. Humphries ended the heat fourth.
Following Humphries, Meyers Taylor excelled at the top and then the bottom — the toughest part of the course, also known as "The Dragon's Tail" — and claimed the heat's third-fastest time, 1:01.26.
Just as Meyers Taylor kicked off her first run, a tweet announced that had been selected as the United States' Closing Ceremony flagbearer. Meyers Taylor appeared thrilled in the announcement video, filmed shortly before this race.
Somewhat unexpectedly, Germany's Mariama Jamanka and pusher Alexandra Burghardt scored the heat's second-fastest time, 1:01.04 — just 0.06 seconds from first. Though Jamanka is the defending gold medalist in this event, she placed sixth in the two-woman world cup standings this season, and 13th in Olympic monobob.
The start list for Heat 2 began with the slowest time from the previous run, and concluded with leader Nolte.
Kalicki kicked off the logjam of bobsled all-stars vying for 2022 two-woman gold, but further distanced herself from the lead with a slightly slower Heat 2. She is the lowest-ranked German athlete, in sixth at the midpoint.
Humphries also struggled through her second run: Though she only made minor mistakes following a relatively slow start, she ended up leaking 1.33 seconds over her first two heats — and dropped into fifth.
Humphries traded standings with Canada's Christine de Bruin, who earned monobob bronze earlier in the Games. De Bruin has only 0.17 seconds on Humphries, but needs to gain 0.42 seconds for third.
Currently, Meyers Taylor rests on that most vulnerable podium position. Her second heat was solid heat, but like most others in the top 10, deepened her deficit.
Still, it'll be easier for the American to sneak up the rankings than for second-place bobsledder Jamanka to claim the top spot. Nolte, who finished fourth in the Olympic monobob competition, solidified her first-place standing with an even faster Heat 2. Nolte isn't just the frontrunner; she's as close to a lock for gold as any athlete can be at these Games.
If Nolte and Jamanka end up finishing one-two, it'll be the fifth time Germany has done so in a sliding sport at these Games. And if Meyers Taylor claims a medal, she'll become the most decorated Olympic female bobsledder of all time.
The two-woman bobsled competition concludes with Heats 3 and 4 on Saturday, February 19th at 7:00 a.m. ET. Check the bobsled schedule HERE for streaming and broadcast details.