Melissa Lotholz Wins Bronze as Canadians Shine at Women’s Monobob World Series in Austria
IGLS, Aut.—Melissa Lotholz put her name in the history books as the first Canadian to win a medal on the newly-created Women’s Monobob World Series at the World Cup level.
The 28-year-old developing pilot led three Canadian sleds into the top-six while celebrating the bronze medal on Saturday at the World Cup stop in Igls, Austria. Lotholz rocketed to a two-run time of 1:51.22 on 14-corner track.
“It’s pretty overwhelming to think about it that way (making history), said Lotholz, who won the Europe Cup Monobob World Series race in Igls earlier this month. “It really hasn’t sunk in yet, but I think it is so cool to have this opportunity to race monobobs.
“To have two consistent starts and runs today shows everything is coming together. I’m very proud of the process and I am having so much fun which is so important.”
Australia’s Breeana Walker slid into the winner’s circle with a time of 1;50.84. Elana Meyers Taylor, of the United States, was second at 1:51.07.
Lotholz, who finished fifth in her first Monobob World Series one week ago in Konigssee, was a model of consistency in her second trip to the World Cup start line for the new race discipline that will make its Olympic debut in 2022.
The former world-class brakemen exploded off the start block in a time of 5.87 in both heats and clocked the third-fastest times in both runs on the relatively flat 1,478-metre track.
“As you develop as a pilot, consistency is what you zone in on more and more. When you’re learning you have one good run and one horrible one,” said Lotholz. “Today, to be able to improve on that second run (when in medal position) speaks to where my development is.”
Lotholz is no stranger to the World Cup podium. She first made her mark on the elite international bobsleigh circuit while providing the force behind Kaillie Humphries’ sled. The duo celebrated multiple World Cup and World Championship medals together.
The powerful brakeman went on to push her University of Alberta varsity track and field teammate, Christine De Bruin, to a seventh-place finish at the 2018 Olympic Games in PyeongChang.
“I think (today’s result) also speaks to the mental training and preparation I have had as a brakeman. Sitting in that position after the first run didn’t scare me today. I love the process. So much of it in monobob is like a brakeman. I want to crush it at the start and then just tell myself to take the corners as they come,” added Lotholz.
The farm girl from Northern Alberta knows what it takes to be world class. One of the hardest working athletes on the circuit, whose summer training includes pushing tractors and machinery while helping out on the family farm, Lotholz is now on a mission to hunt down the world’s best pilots in women’s bobsleigh as she continues to develop as a pilot.
She is not alone in her quest. Lotholz is surrounded by one of the deepest squads in the history of the women’s bobsleigh program - all who are hungry to do their part to win medals for Canada.
All of the Canadian women put on a show Saturday, driving three sleds into the top-six.
Toronto’s Cynthia Appiah, another brakeman turned pilot after the 2018 Games, caught the world’s attention with lightning-fast starts in both runs that propelled her to a career-best fourth-place finish with a time of 1:51.22.
Appiah and Lotholz have had a healthy competition since they both entered the sport as brakemen following the 2014 Olympics, and now as pilots. Appiah, who switched to the driver’s seat with Lotholz after the 2018 Games, has also been steady in her development as a pilot and racing monobobs. The 30-year-old finished second to Lotholz at the Europe Cup Monobob race that was also held in Igls this month.
“Cynthia and I have had this healthy competition for years and it has been so fun to be developing as a pilot with her. We look at each other with this confidence we are going to dominate at the start, and we encourage each other to keep it going all the way down the track,” said Lotholz.
Edmonton’s Alysia Rissling, who brings another veteran presence to the Canadian program, was rock solid in her Monobob World Series Debut. The 32-year-old Olympic pilot, who took last season off to recover from an injury, rounded out the Canadian contingent in a tie for sixth spot with a time of 1:51.78.
“As much as this is an individual sport, we have a great team camaraderie throughout the entire program and we are there to cheer each other on. It is such a treat to have Rizz (Alysia Rissling) on Tour with us this year. Coming from a team sport background she is so willing to help and is a huge resource for us developing pilots,” said Lotholz. “And none of our success happens without the brakemen. They may not race monobobs but they are doing all of the work behind the scenes and creating such a supportive environment. It is all about the ‘Team’ and the program.”
Earlier in the day Calgary’s Chris Spring and Ottawa’s Mike Evelyn teamed up to finish 11th in the two-man World Cup bobsleigh race with a time of 1:44.46.
Germany’s Francesco Friedrich and Alexander Schueller won the gold with a time of 1:43.08.
Canada’s Justin Kripps experienced a muscle cramp in warmup and decided not to race.
Team Kripps and Team Spring will be back in action on Sunday for the final World Cup four-man event of the year.
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