Jamie Greubel navigates her sled around Mt. Van Hoevenberg's tenth curve on her way to a third-place finish Dec. 13.
LAKE PLACID — The US women’s bobsled team kicked off the World Cup in Lake Placid emphatically, placing all three teams on the podium at the Mt. Van Hoevenberg Olympic Sports Complex on Saturday, Dec. 13.
With only the three US sleds remaining, Sochi winter Olympics bronze medalist Jamie Greubel and Lauren Gibbs supplanted Germany’s Anja Schneiderheinze for first place before the next two US sleds did the same.
Elana Meyers, who finished a spot ahead of Greubel for silver in Sochi, took first place with teammate Cherrelle Garrett, followed by Jazmine Fenlator and Natalie Deratt.
When Meyers crossed the finish line it was all smiles as the six American sledders celebrated the sweep of the first stop of the 2014-15 season.
Meyers’ combined time of 1:52.68 was best by just over a second while nearly three-tenths of a second—a comfortable margin in the sport—separated Greubel from Schneiderheinze. Reigning Olympic gold medalist and two-time World Cup winner Kaillie Humphries of Canada finished fifth overall.
‘A GOOD FIT’
On Friday, a day before the women’s race, Greubel spent two hours at the base of the Olympic Sports Complex signing autographs and posing for photographs with area students spending the day at the bobsleigh and skeleton World Cup. She took a moment in between pictures to talk about the upcoming season.
“We kick start on our home track, which is awesome,” said Greubel, who has lived and trained in Lake Placid for six years. “The track here is one of the most challenging in the world. We’re very fortunate to learn here.”
Greubel, who had a strong track and field career at Cornell University, didn’t feel like she was finished competing afterward. A college friend on the men’s team thought Greubel would be a good fit and convinced her to give it a try.
Greubel described her first sledding experience as feeling like “being put in a tin can and kicked off a cliff,” but she soon got used to the sport.
“Once my body knew what to expect I was able to enjoy it more,” she said. “I had a new passion to pursue. I came up here and started training to make the team.”
Calling the fit “good,” as it turned out, was an understatement. The bronze medal isn’t Greubel’s only hardware; she also finished third in last season’s World Cup standings. Now, with the 2014 Olympics now behind her, Greubel is focused on upcoming season.
“I hope to be consistently on the podium,” said Greubel, who finished in the top three in five of last season’s eight events. “I hope to continue that trend and improve my consistency and my driving.”
The autograph and photo event was put on by Top Dog Direct, a marketing company behind “As Seen On TV” products that sponsors Greubel in her World Cup and Olympic pursuits.
With the Olympian’s attention on the scores-long line of children, Bill McAlister, president of Top Dog, explained that he coached baseball with Greubel’s father for 15 years and watched her grow up as well as following her track career. When Greubel was competing in the World Cup with the 2014 Olympics on the horizon, he wanted to support the local athlete.
“We were ecstatic that she got a bronze medal,” said McAlister. “It’s great that we’re in a position to help her.”
Greubel said Olympic athletes like bobsledders don’t get salaries like professionals in major sports such as football or hockey despite the comparable time and work commitment. Without the help, she said, the dream would be impossible to go after.
Greubel is just one of many athletes facing the same challenge. USA Bobsled and Skeleton hosts a Kickstarter-like crowdfunding website where Olympic hopefuls, many of whom live and train in Lake Placid, offer incentives ranging from autographed gear to advertising opportunities in exchange for financial help.
McAlister likened the sponsorship of Greubel to what the company does: finding people with an invention or an idea and helping them sell it.
“What makes America great is invention and the spirit of adventure,” added Steve Silbiger, chief marketing officer of the company. “That’s what she does. She had a dream to be a competitive and we got to support that.”
For athletes like Greubel, a sticker on a helmet can be the difference between the next 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and leaving bobsledding behind. But in the end, it’s the sport that matters most.
“I love it,” said Greubel. “I’ve gotten to travel to some amazing places, every track that we go to is just beautiful. It’s just such a great environment and opportunity to experience.”