LAKE PLACID — Tropical Storm Irene swept along the east coast last weekend, leaving many residents in the Adirondacks under water and without power.
Despite road closures and flooding, Lake Placid U.S. Olympic Training Center resident and 2010 Olympic bronze medalist Elana Meyers had this to say: “The show must go on.”
Over 60 bobsled and skeleton athletes from around the nation will travel to Lake Placid this weekend for the 2011 U.S. National Push Championships.
“We hope to be a positive example for the community,” Meyers said. “There’s a lot of damage to surrounding areas, and we want to do what we can to help the communities that support us. We’ll keep pushing, literally and figuratively, to recover.”
Men and women bobsled athletes will compete in a single push event on Wednesday, Sept. 7 to determine combinations for a team push on Sept. 10. Skeleton athletes will battle for their right to the title on Sept. 17.
The U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation (USBSF) staff has reached out to town officials in hopes of engaging the team in local recovery efforts following the competition.
“The Adirondack region is a community that has welcomed us year after year, and we want to do what we can to give back in this time of need,” said Darrin Steele, USBSF CEO. “Lake Placid is headquarters for the sliding sports in the U.S. and host for the 2012 World Championships, so this storm hit close to home.”
Team members are scheduled to arrive Sunday, Sept. 4 and kick off the week with a combine test on Monday. Athletes must score 600 points or more in a series of speed and power drills that make up the combine test in order to qualify to compete.
The men’s and women’s bobsled push championships results will be taken into account by the team selection committee as they name the national team following trials in October.
“Push championships is the opportunity for every returning athlete to show all the hard work they’ve been putting in over the summer, and it’s an opportunity for all the new athletes to compare themselves to the national team and Olympians,” Meyers said.
Meyers hopes to win her fourth consecutive women’s bobsled push championship title. Already an Olympic medalist as a push athlete, Meyers is aiming for gold as a pilot in 2014.
“Winning the title of national push champion only makes you want it more the next season so you can show that you’ve continued to progress as an athlete,” Meyers said. “At the same time, though, you are always looking to be faster than you were the last season — win, lose or draw.”
Three-time bobsled Olympian Todd Hays will get his first glimpse of the team as the newly hired women’s bobsled coach.
“This will be my first push championships as a coach for the U.S. program and I am excited to see the women in competition mode,” Hays said. “This will help me better understand where each athlete is physically and set a starting point for our future goals. From what I’ve seen so far it looks like the women have had a great summer of training and I am hoping to see it pay off.”
On-ice results are the combined outcome of push athlete and driver effort, which is why this event is an important competition for push athletes to show their individual talents.
“As bobsled athletes, push championships is our first of few opportunities to test our abilities against the nation’s best,” said Steve Langton. “I’m very excited and optimistic as the season draws closer. Our program is strong and considering the number of quality athletes we have competing this season, I have very high hopes for this World Cup season.”
Not only does Langton hold several national titles, but he’s also the reigning world push champion. The international federation hosted its first ever world push competition last season in Cesana, Italy, and Langton brought the title home by 0.03 seconds.
“Every opportunity to compete is an opportunity to win,” Langton said. “Having claimed a few titles over the past few years has motivated me to continue to improve and better myself as a push athlete.”
Drivers will analyze push championship results before selecting athletes for national team trials in Lake Placid in October. Athletes will put forth their best to impress not only the drivers, but to gain the attention of the coaching staff.
“This is definitely an important aspect of building teams,” said Brian Shimer, U.S. men’s bobsled head coach. “We have a great mix of rookie and veteran athletes competing. It keeps veterans looking over their shoulder, and it’s good to have new talent continually pushing our team to get even better.”
The results of skeleton push championships do not have an impact on team selection, but head coach Tuffy Latour emphasizes the importance of getting athletes back into competition mode leading up to the season.
“Push championships is shaping up to be another great event for USA skeleton,” Latour said. “This competition will include some very strong veteran sliders, new recruits from last year and our newest additions from combine events this summer. The competition should be outstanding.”
The U.S. skeleton program has grown from 14 athletes at the conclusion of the 2010 national team trials to 60 since Latour took the reigns last summer.
“The transformation of the program is due to an increased recruiting partnership with the Olympic Regional Development Authority,” Latour said. “The U.S. Olympic Committee has stepped up support for our team and this added benefit has helped the program to grow very rapidly.”
Fans are welcome to attend U.S. National Push Championships. The push track is located at the rear of the North Elba Show Grounds in Lake Placid, and competition start times will be posted under the “Events” tab at www.usbsf.com.