With eye on 2022, China wins 1st World Cup sliding medal
LA PLAGNE, France (AP) — China has its first World Cup sliding medal, two years before Beijing plays host to the Winter Olympics for the first time.
Geng Wenqiang tied for the bronze medal Friday in a men’s skeleton World Cup race, giving the Chinese their biggest result since the nation began focusing more on sliding sports after winning the bid for the 2022 Beijing Games.
Russia’s Alexander Tretiakov won the race with a two-run time of 1 minute 58.90 seconds. Martins Dukurs of Latvia was second in 1:59.27, and Geng tied for third with reigning Olympic champion Yun Sungbin of South Korea in 2:00.29. Geng and Yun had identical times in both heats.
Geng’s previous best World Cup result was a seventh-place showing on Nov. 10, 2017, at Lake Placid, New York. In 13 races since, entering Friday, his average finish was 17th. No other Chinese slider has medaled at the World Cup level in bobsled, skeleton or luge — though the nation has won many medals on lower circuits in recent years.
It was Dukurs’ 75th World Cup medal, and the runner-up showing was enough to vault him into the overall lead in the men’s skeleton season standings.
The U.S. men struggled Friday, with Austin Florian’s 18th-place showing the best of the three American sleds. Andrew Blaser was 22nd and Alex Ivanov was 27th.
In the women’s race Friday, Russia’s Elena Nikitina was the winner in 2:02.72 — her second victory of the season. Austria’s Janine Flock was second in 2:03.37 and Germany’s Jacqueline Loelling was third in 2:03.58.
Loelling kept the World Cup lead by seven points over Flock, the only woman to medal in all four races so far this season.
Megan Henry led the U.S., placing 11th. Savannah Graybill was 14th and Kendall Wesenberg was 17th.