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News | Feb. 6, 2014

Bobsledders take first training runs in Sochi

By Associated Press Associated Press

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Lauryn Williams already has won some hardware at the Sochi Olympics.

Not bad for a Winter Olympic rookie on her first day.

The U.S. women's push athlete had a bet with American driver Jazmine Fenlator on Wednesday, the first day of unofficial training for bobsledders and skeleton athletes at the Sanki Sliding Center. Williams — who sprinted at the Athens, Beijing and London Games for the United States — won the bet, and her prize was three Olympic pins from Fenlator's collection.

"She's a huge pin collector," Fenlator said. "But I'm super-pumped for her. I just wanted her to have a lot of fun with the first Olympic training day."

The mood seemed to be fairly light, not surprising on a day when sliders placed little emphasis on times and were more fixated on learning the nuances of the course.

U.S. men's bobsled pilot Steven Holcomb was among those who said the course now was shaped slightly differently to what sliders found back in November during an international training week, so that's one adjustment for teams to deal with in the coming days.

"The first day on ice at the Olympics is always exciting," said Holcomb, who drove USA-1 to a four-man gold medal at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010. "It's going well so far."

Bobsledders return for more unofficial runs Thursday, before official training begins next week. Official training in skeleton starts over the weekend.

For the U.S. women's bobsled team, Wednesday's session still carried some importance, since no decisions have been finalized about which drivers will be paired with what push athlete. By Thursday night, the drivers — Fenlator, Elana Meyers and Jamie Greubel — will be paired with a push athlete, either Williams, Lolo Jones or Aja Evans.

Picking the women's team was difficult for U.S. officials, and deciding which pusher will be in what sled doesn't look like it will be easy, either.

"It's not a very difficult track to get down, but a very difficult track to be fast on," Meyers said. "That's the cool thing about these kinds of tracks as a driver. ... Whoever wins this race will have to have the fastest starts and is going to have to drive their way to the medals. That's exciting."

Williams had not seen the Sochi track before Wednesday. For the former University of Miami sprinter who won a silver medal in Athens and helped the Americans win gold in the 4x100-meter relay in London, her first trip down the ice left her wide-eyed.

"The first run down was awesome," Williams said.