International bobsleigh competition kicked off last weekend at the Canadian Olympic Park in Calgary with a double-header North Americas Cup (NAC) event. The NAC 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 Justin Kripps) compete in this season’s opener rather than have them accompany Canada 1 and 2 to Sochi, Russia, for the official Olympic two- week preseason training. The goal being to have some extra valuable race experience and hopefully garner important points in their quest for an Olympic slot.
However, other countries had similar strategies. Russia sent all three World Cup teams and U.S.A sent two teams. Suddenly this season opening NAC event turned into a mini-World Cup event, with several smaller countries also sending their teams.
First up came the two-man event. Canada 3 (Justin Kripps and rookie brakeman Bryan Barnett in his first ever international race) impressed with the fastest start times, but a slight driving error put them fifth out of a field of 32 teams.
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. It was in the four-man events that Team Kripps impressed.
The team (Kripps, Randall, James McNaughton and Barnett) who had never competed together before, consistently pulled out top times and in the final heat delivered the fastest start time. Kripps rose to the occasion, drove four outstanding runs and the team finished with two silver medals, with only Russia 1 ahead of them in both events.
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 28-30th.