By David Kirton
YANQING, China (Reuters) – Germany’s Laura Nolte and Deborah Levi powered ahead in the first two rounds of the women’s bobsleigh in Yanqing on Friday, with only compatriots Mariama Jamanka and Alexandra Burghardt keeping within half a second of their scorching runs.
It’s 23-year-old Nolte’s first Olympic outing, but she showed her mettle in forging ahead of competitors with at least ten medals between them, with a time of 2:02.05 after two runs.
Her closest competition comes from Jamanka and Burghardt, the former who surprised herself to win gold in Pyeongchang four years ago, with a time 0.50 seconds slower.
The Berliner reckoned she still had some improving to do.
“I think more about the work and my runs, because they weren’t perfect and especially in the second one I had some mistakes,” Jamanka told reporters after the heats. “That’s the thing I want to work on tomorrow.”
Looking likely for a fifth Olympic medal is the United States’ Elana Meyers Taylor, with the 37-year-old in 0.74 seconds behind the leaders.
It is very likely Meyers Taylor’s last race after taking the silver medal in the first women’s monobob on Monday.
There’s still a chance of Canada’s Christine de Bruin or the United States’ Kaillie Humphries jumping up from fourth and fifth, but they are already somewhat off the pace from the medal positions.
“It’s a whole new day tomorrow,” Meyers Taylor told reporters.
“Kaillie has come from behind before to win a medal, Christine is a great competitor, and we still got to go after the Germans. I got to figure it out and take out both teams.”
Germany has already won seven out of eight available sliding golds and half the 24 sliding medals.
On Wednesday, Francesco Friedrich led three German teams in a sweep of the podium in the men’s event, a feat unprecedented in any Olympic bobsleigh event going back 98 years.
Britain’s Mica McNeill and Montell Douglas were far back in 19th place after two runs, far below what they would have hoped for after McNeill finished eighth in Pyeongchang four years ago.
They appeared to execute their runs with smoothness and precision, however the speed was absent.
“We don’t fully know what’s going on right now. We need to go back, speak to coaches, look at timesheets, reset and recover and come back tomorrow,” McNeill said.
(Reporting by David Kirton; Editing by Christian Radnedge)