Church wins U.S.’s 1st men’s bob­sled medal since 2017

Antelope Valley Press - - SPORTS -

IGLS, Aus­tria — Hunter Church re­mem­bers see­ing U.S. bob­sled great Steven Hol­comb win the 2009 world cham­pi­onships, then went up to him af­ter­ward and shook his hand.

“I told him I wanted to be like him one day,” Church said.

For Church, “one day” be­came Sun­day.

Church won his first World Cup bob­sled medal, a bronze in a four­man race at his­toric Inns­bruck. It was the first medal for the U.S. men in a bob­sled race on for­eign soil since Hol­comb cap­tured bronze on the same track in 2017.

Ger­many’s Francesco Friedrich won the race in 1 minute, 41.88 sec­onds. Coun­try­man Jo­hannes Lochner took sec­ond in 1:42.21. And the bronze went to Church and his team of Kristo­pher Horn, Joshua Wil­liamson and James Reed, who crossed the line in 1:42.30.

Reed was also in Hol­comb’s sled for the bronze at Inns­bruck three years ago. Church’s bronze on Sun­day was the first medal for the U.S. men’s bob­sled pro­gram — re­gard­less of lo­ca­tion — since Codie Bas­cue drove to the sil­ver in Park City, Utah, on Nov. 18, 2017.

Hol­comb’s medal at Inns­bruck in Fe­bru­ary 2017 was the last of his World Cup ca­reer. He died three months later.

The U.S. had won 18 World Cup bob­sled medals since, all in women’s races.

Church had plenty of help. U.S. women’s pi­lot Kail­lie Humphries took time dur­ing the week to show Church — who had never raced Inns­bruck be­fore — the best ways down the track. And be­tween heats on Sun­day, Church and U.S. driv­ing coach Brian Shimer were re­view­ing video when more help came from an un­likely source.

Friedrich, the reign­ing World Cup over­all cham­pion and un­ques­tion­ably the best driver in the world right now, ap­proached Church to sug­gest a dif­fer­ent way to nav­i­gate a par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult cor­ner. An hour or so later, they were stand­ing to­gether on the medal podium.

“We’ve formed a good re­la­tion­ship with the Ger­mans and it says a lot about Friedrich for him to take the time to do that for Hunter,” U.S. bob­sled coach Mike Kohn said.

Friedrich got his third four­man win of the sea­son and ex­tended his lead over Lochner in the World Cup stand­ings to 38 points. Canada’s Justin Kripps is third in the points race, and Church is now sixth in those stand­ings.

Be­fore Sun­day, Church’s best World Cup fin­ish had been a trio of fifth-place show­ings — all at the team’s home track in Lake Placid, New York.

“I can’t even Church said. ex­plain it,”

As­so­ci­ated Press

BRONZE WIN­NERS Hunter Church and Joshua Wil­liamson of the USA speed down the track dur­ing the first run of the men’s two-man bob­sled World Cup race in Igls, near Inns­bruck, Aus­tria, on Satur­day.

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