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Posted: Jan 16, 1:19p ET | Updated: Feb 13, 4:56p ET

U.S. sliding teams lock up Olympic spots

(AP) -- U.S. women's bobsled driver Bree Schaaf could hardly believe it Saturday when realizing that she clinched a spot on the Olympic roster.

U.S. driver Bree Schaaf
U.S. driver Bree Schaaf

By day's end, she had plenty of company.

The U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation formally announced 11 spots on its roster for the Vancouver Games on Saturday, and another berth - for bobsledder Mike Kohn, who wasn't even in the Olympic picture when the season began - was clinched earlier in the day when he finished 12th in a World Cup race at St. Moritz, Switzerland.

"Going to the Olympics will feel like going home, but I had to get there first by driving a new track every week," said Schaaf, who lives in Bremerton, Wash., not far from Vancouver. "I can't believe I get to walk in opening ceremonies. I dreamed about this, but now it's really real."

Real for a lot of other people, too.

In the Olympic women's bobsled competition, 2006 silver medalist Shauna Rohbock will drive with Michelle Rzepka, Erin Pac will drive with Elana Meyers and Schaaf - who wrapped up her berth with an 11th-place showing Saturday in St. Moritz, good enough to keep her ninth in the overall world standings - will drive with Emily Azevedo.

"I'm excited that we qualified three sleds, because I think all of us are competitive and have a chance to do well," Rohbock said.

In skeleton, John Daly locked up a third start position for the U.S. men by winning an Intercontinental Cup race Friday night in Calgary, Alberta, but there was still a sliver of doubt over whether that spot would go to him or Matt Antoine.

Now it's certain.

Daly is an Olympian, set to compete alongside two-time qualifier Eric Bernotas and Zach Lund, who narrowly missed making the team in 2002 and was kicked out of the Torino Games hours before the opening ceremony over use of a hair-growth product that included a banned substance.

"It hit me before the second run in Calgary on Friday night," Daly said. "I said, 'You know, if I don't screw this up too bad, we're going to have three sleds in the Olympics.' It's a lifelong dream that's finally coming true."

Daly, Bernotas and Lund will be joined at the Whistler Sliding Center by women's teammates Katie Uhlaender and Noelle Pikus-Pace, both of whom overcame injuries to make the 2010 team.

Uhlaender, who was sixth at the Torino Games, has raced all season while recovering from a series of offseason surgeries to rebuild a shattered kneecap. And Pikus-Pace finally is Olympics-bound, after seeing her quest in 2006 - when she would have been the gold-medal favorite - derailed when her leg was shattered after a bobsled didn't stop before exiting the track in Calgary and crashed into her.

"This really is a dream come true," Pikus-Pace said in an e-mail. "Wow. What a great day here in St. Moritz, Switzerland as I sit in my room and try to take it all in."

The only things left to settle is four-man bobsled, and if the U.S. gets the maximum allotment of three Olympic spots there.

Steven Holcomb and John Napier know they'll be driving in both two- and four-man at the Olympics, although their nominations aren't expected to be announced by the USBSF until Sunday.

Kohn emerged as a mild surprise.

Not even on the World Cup tour when the season began, Kohn was summoned back to the circuit in an effort to get three U.S. sleds to Vancouver after veteran driver Todd Hays saw his season end in a scary training crash that left him with bleeding within his brain and prompted him to retire.

When Kohn's two-man Olympic spot was clinched, no one seemed happier to hear it than Hays.

"Mike Kohn exemplifies the Olympic spirit," Hays said. "He has had to overcome so many setbacks the last few years. He could have given up many times, but instead he kept fighting and working hard. He had to have a big result this week and he dug down and came up with one.

"I am so happy for him and his family. Nobody deserves to be in Vancouver any more."

Kohn will try to lock up that third spot in four-man bobsledding on Sunday in St. Moritz."Kohn did what he needed to do," Holcomb, the top American driver in the World Cup standings and the 2009 world four-man champion, said Saturday. "So it was a good day for the U.S."

The formula used to calculate world rankings and Olympic spots is complex, but this weekend's drama in two-man largely came down to how many points Kohn could collect in the World Cup race as opposed to what Canada's Serge Despres could manage on the European Cup tour.

Kohn, with Olympic-bound Curt Tomasevicz pushing his two-man sled, earned an additional 128 World Cup points to move past Despres in the world rankings, according to calculations done by the USBSF.

"Curt gave him a great start, but ultimately it was up to Mike to drive well," Steele said. "Which he did."


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