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With only two sleds qualified for the Pyeongchang Olympics, the always competitive spots for U.S. brakemen got tighter.
Olympic medalist Aja Evans and Lauren Gibbs were named to the team on Saturday. Gibbs, who made her first Olympic team, will push Elana Meyers Taylor’s sled, while Evans will again push Jamie Greubel Poser’s sled after the pair won bronze in Sochi in their Olympic debut.
Briauna Jones was named as a replacement athlete. The team announcement came after the U.S. concluded World Cup competition in St. Moritz on Saturday.
The selections and lack of a third sled meant that Lolo Jones, a controversial pick for the team in Sochi, will not compete.
“Six push athletes have been battling it out week after week and winning medals on the World Cup circuit this year, but we only have two spots for the Games,” said USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation CEO Darrin Steele. “We don’t take this decision light-heartedly. The selection committee chose the athletes they think have the best chance of bringing home hardware from Korea for Team USA.”
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Since the 2016-17 season, Evans has seven world cup medals and pushed Greubel Poser to bronze at last year’s world championship.
Gibbs, meanwhile, has 11 World Cup medals in her four seasons in the sport and pushed Meyers Taylor’s sled to bronze at the 2016 world championships.
Meyers Taylor is seeking her third Olympic medal after winning silver with Lauryn Williams in Sochi. As a brakeman for Erin Pac, Meyers Taylor won bronze in Vancouver.
Both U.S. sleds are favored to medal but will have to knock off two-time defending gold medalist Kaillie Humphries of Canada. At the test event in Pyeongchang, Greubel Poser got the win while Meyers Taylor was second.
Meyers Taylor and Lolo Jones took gold for the pilot’s first world cup win of the season on Saturday. Jones later tweeted her congratulations and best wishes to the team.
The United States had been hoping to qualify three sleds, but narrowly missed that on Saturday. Needing to finish higher than the third Canadian team to qualify a third sled for Pyeongchang, Brittany Reinbolt finished in 15th, putting her one spot and 0.16 seconds behind Canada’s Christine de Bruin.
“I’m feeling such a mixture of emotions right now,” Meyers Taylor said in a press release. “I feel gutted. Brittany was one of my recruits. It’s bittersweet because I’ve been working all season to get a race win and I knew I could win here. I knew with the depth of brakemen we have that we could do it, we could have a great push and win, but, geez, I’m just gutted for Brittany and our brakemen. That’s sport though.”
Lolo Jones was named to the Sochi team amid criticism from fellow U.S. athletes Katie Eberling and Emily Azevedo, who said USA Bobsled made the choice based more on Jones’ popularity and marketability than skill.
Jones pushed Jazmine Fenlator’s USA-3 sled to an 11th-place finish in Sochi. She told USA TODAY Sports in November that while another Summer Olympics would be a possibility, Jones would not try for another Winter Olympics.