This could be the most uncertain Olympic bobsled competition in some time.
The most wide open, too.
In 2014, it was widely expected that Russia would be tough to beat in the two- and four-man races. And it was, with Alexandr Zubkov winning gold in both events, only to have those medals stripped as part of the fallout from the state-sponsored doping program that has left a giant cloud over what the home team did at the Sochi Games.
In 2010, Steven Holcomb and his famed “Night Train” sled lived up to expectations and ended the Americans’ 62-year gold medal drought in the Olympic four-man race. In 2006, Andre Lange of Germany was the consensus pick to pull off the daunting double — gold in both events — and did.
Zubkov is now banned. Holcomb died last year. Lange has long been retired.
So this year, a new men’s Olympic bobsled driving star will have to emerge. Germany, Canada, Latvia, Switzerland and the United States all will head to these Olympics believing they have a realistic chance of reaching the medal podium, and so will the host South Koreans, though they would still seem to be a longshot.
The women’s bobsled race is much easier to figure out, even with 20 sleds. Five drivers are the only ones with realistic medal shots:
Canada’s Kaillie Humphries is chasing her third straight gold medal. Americans Elana Meyers Taylor and Jamie Greubel Poser won silver and bronze, respectively, in 2014 and German drivers Mariama Jamanka and Stephanie Schneider have also worked their way toward the top of the world rankings.
MEDAL FAVORITES: Germany in men’s bobsled, the U.S. and Canada in women’s bobsled.
BEST RIVALRY: They’re friends, but that doesn’t stop Canada’s Humphries and U.S. star Meyers Taylor from being rivals. They finished first and second, respectively, in Sochi, and Humphries is going for her third straight gold. Another wrinkle in this cold war of sorts: Todd Hays, the longtime U.S. bobsledder and coach, is now helping coach the Canadians.
RISING STARS: Codie Bascue and Evan Weinstock are two sliders that the U.S. program has pointed to for years as future cornerstones of the program. Their time is now. Pyeongchang marks the Olympic debuts for Bascue, a pilot, and Weinstock, who teammates boldly predict will go down as the best push athlete in U.S. history.
DON’T MISS: The two-man race might be completely wide open after six drivers combined to win the first seven World Cup events this season.
OLYMPIAN EFFORT: Canada’s Chris Spring, an Australian-born bobsledder, survived a frightening crash six years ago and now is one of the biggest medal threats.
Americans to watch
Codie Bascue: Instead of transitioning from a sport such as track or football after college the way most American bobsledders do, the Whitehall, N.Y., native began driving sled at age 8. Bascue, 23, won a bronze medal in two-man at the first World Cup of the 2017 season, then claimed his first gold in two-man in Lake Placid, becoming the only American man other than Steven Holcomb to win a World Cup gold medal in that event since 2009.
Evan Weinstock: The Las Vegas native was introduced to bobsled through his participation in the decathlon, a sport in which he set the school record and was a four-time Ivy League champion at Brown. Weinstock, 26, who was named the Nevada 4A Football Player of the Year in high school, has emerged as one of the nation’s top push athletes.
Sam McGuffie: The Houston native played football and ran track at Michigan and Rice before a brief stint in the NFL. McGuffie, 28, who will be part of the four-man sled with Bascue, Weinstock and Steve Langton and a brakeman with Bascue on a two-man sled, has won five World Cup medals.
Elana Meyers Taylor: The Oceanside, Calif., native and former George Washington softball player started the season as the world’s No. 1 driver and is now No. 2 behind Canada’s two-time Olympic champion Kaillie Humphries. Meyers Taylor, 33, a two-time Olympic medalist, will be appearing in her third Winter Games after winning silver in 2014 and bronze as a brakeman in 2010. The defending world champion has won one gold, three silver and two bronze World Cup medals this past season.
Jamie Greubel Poser: The Princeton, N.J., native won the bronze medal in Sochi and is also the defending world championship bronze medalist. Greubel Poser, 34, who competed in heptathlon and pentathlon at Cornell and is married to German bobsledder Christian Poser, is ranked fourth in the world after a win in Park City, Utah, and a pair of silver medals on the World Cup circuit this past season.
Aja Evans: The Chicago native was a shot putter at Illinois before she tried bobsled in 2012. Evans, 29, took a break from the sport after winning Olympic bronze in 2014, but returned for the 2016-17 season and won seven medals on the World Cup circuit. Her brother, Fred, is a former NFL defensive tackle, and her uncle Gary Matthews played 16 seasons in major league baseball and is the father of former Oriole Gary Matthews Jr.