Bobsled, skeleton officials finalize Olympic sled numbers
The lineup of nations competing in Olympic bobsled and skeleton events was finalized by the International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation on Monday, with 30 countries formally qualifying for the Pyeongchang Games in those sports.
Among them: the African nations of Ghana and Nigeria, as well as Russia — which will have some specially approved athletes competing under the Olympic flag since the Russian Olympic Committee has been banned from these games as part of the massive fallout from the state-sponsored doping scandal in Sochi four years ago.
Nigeria has athletes in the Winter Olympics for the first time, qualifying in women’s bobsled and women’s skeleton. Jamaica is also sending a women’s bobsled team to the Olympics for the first time.
Ghana will have men’s skeleton racer Akwasi Frimpong in the 30-man Olympic field, meaning if he finishes he’s assured of being his country’s top finisher in any event at the Winter Games. The nation’s only other Winter Olympian was alpine skier Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong, who was 47th in the slalom in 2010 at Vancouver.
At least 17 athletes are expected to fill Russia’s sleds, under the designation of OAR or Olympic Athlete from Russia. The Russians qualified for two sleds in each bobsled event — two-man, four-man and women’s — as well as three starting spots in men’s skeleton and two from women’s skeleton.
None of the Russian athletes sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee for doping are eligible for credentials for Pyeongchang or any future Olympics, and many including women’s skeleton bronze medalist Elana Nikitina have had their medals stripped. Nikitina is among about three dozen Russians trying to clear their names through appeals.
“We are the masters of our own destiny,” Nikitina wrote in an Instagram post Monday from Switzerland, where she’s part of a Russian delegation pleading their case to the Court of Arbitration of Sport — which is expected to rule next week on those appeals.
Host South Korea will have sleds in all five of the bobsled and skeleton disciplines, and 2022 Winter Olympic host China will compete next month in men’s skeleton, two-man bobsledding and four-man bobsledding.
Nations could qualify up to three sleds in each of the skeleton and bobsled events. Only Canada and Germany managed to reach the full allocation; the United States has four skeleton athletes instead of the maximum six, and eight bobsleds headed to Korea instead of the maximum nine.
North Korea, which will have some athletes competing in Pyeongchang, will not be taking part in sliding after all.
The International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation proposed and endorsed a plan to have a forerunning four-man bobsled — one that tests conditions before races but isn’t part of the competition — composed of two sliders from South Korea and two others from North Korea, and have it coached by Italian and U.S. officials.
But the notion has fallen apart, with the North Koreans — who do not regularly compete in bobsled — sending word to the IBSF that it was unable to find athletes who could fill the two slots.
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