Can anyone beat Germany in the 2018/19 Bobsleigh World Cup?
The new IBSF Bobsleigh World Cup season is underway, with the first event in Sigulda, Latvia, running until Sunday (9 December).
After winning four medals at PyeongChang 2018, including gold in all three disciplines, Germany are looking to improve that record at Beijing 2022, and the preparations have already started.
The Europeans are currently developing a new sled which they hope to see in action before the end of the year.
So who are the names to keep an eye on this season? Read on to find out.
Germany's great last Heat brings shared Gold in Two-Man | Bobsleigh
Germany's great last Heat brings shared Gold in Two-Man | BobsleighThe combined time of Canada's Justin Kripps and Germany's Francesco Friedrich was exactly the same at the Alpensia Sliding Centre
The German powerhouse
Coach René Spies has extended his contract as head coach of the German bobsleigh team following the immense success at PyeongChang 2018 and has been joined by Stefan Bosch who has left the Canadian team after 10 years working with Olympic champs Kaillie Humphries and Justin Kripps.
Their star in the men's events is Francesco Friedrich, an Olympic and World Champion in the two-man and four-man bobsleigh.
Friedrich is looking to better his second place from last year’s World Cup standings in the two-man bobsleigh.
His target is to clinch the Crystal Globe trophy for overall winner, which Canada’s Justin Kripps snatched from his grasp last season. Kripps also tied him for gold in the two-man event at the 2018 Winter Olympics after a dead heat.
The Canadian challenger
Kripps started the season off well by winning both the two- and four-man bobsleigh at the first event of the second-tier North American Cup back in November in front of his home crowd in Whistler.
Whistler will host the Bobsleigh and Skeleton World Championships in February, and one of the Canadian’s focuses this season will be on getting prepared for that special event on home ice.
However, retaining his overall World Cup title will also be on his mind.
Canada clocks same time and shares Two-Man Gold with Germany | Bobsleigh
Canada clocks same time and shares Two-Man Gold with Germany | BobsleighThe combined time of Canada's Justin Kripps and Germany's Francesco Friedrich was exactly the same at the Alpensia Sliding Centre.
The South Korean outsider
South Korea is no bobsleigh powerhouse like Germany and Canada, but they have appeared on the podium every so often in the recent years.
Won Jun-jong won the overall World Cup in the two-man bobsleigh in 2015-2016 and finished third last year. He is set for a starts at Sigulda and will be one Germany’s Friedrich should take seriously in his hunt for the Crystal Globe.
The South Korean claimed Olympic silver this year in front of his home crowd behind Friedrich in the four-man after tying with Nico Walther. The battle could very well be between these three guys once again.
Huge blow for Latvia
The most successful bobsledder in Latvian history, the Olympic and former world champ Oskars Melbardis, will miss the 2018/19 season due to injury.
Instead, Oskars Kibermanis and rookie Ralfs Berzins, fourth at the Under-23 World Junior Championships, will pilot the two Latvian bobsleigh teams this winter.
Jamanka stays in Olympic form
In the two-woman bobsleigh, it is also the Germans who are the big favourites to win the title.
The three German pilots this season are European champion Stephanie Schneider, European Championships bronze medallist Anna Köhler, and PyeongChang 2018 winner Mariama Jamanka.
While Schneider got injured during the Games and finished fourth, Jamanka won Germany’s first two-woman bobsleigh medal since 2006.
And all eyes will be on Jamanka who recently proved that she has stayed in shape since PyeongChang by claiming the German national title in November.
Germany's Mariama Jamanka takes Women's Gold | Bobsleigh
Germany's Mariama Jamanka takes Women's Gold | BobsleighThe former hammer thrower from Berlin won the gold medal together with Lisa Buckwitz.
Canada’s Kaillie Humphries, last year's World Cup overall champion, finished third at PyeongChang after winning two consecutive Olympic golds in Vancouver and Sochi.
But she won't be on the circuit this year as she's taking a year off from competition after her bronze in Korea alongside former track and field athlete Phylicia George.
However, Humphries has revealed that she is targeting Beijing 2022.
Phylicia George wins Women's Bronze | Bobsleigh
Phylicia George wins Women's Bronze | BobsleighThe bobsledder and track and field athlete from Canada won the bronze medal with teammate Kaillie Humphries.
So the biggest threat to the Germans might well come from USA’s Elana Meyers Taylor.
The 34-year-old shows no sign of thinking of retiring anytime soon.
Meyers and Canada’s Humphries were the first women to compete with andagainst men in an international four-man bobsleigh competition in 2014.
And the three-time Olympic medallist also brought the United States its first world championships gold in women’s bobsleigh.
World Cup calendar
7–9 December 2018 Sigulda, Latvia: Two-woman, two-man (two races)
15–16 December 2018 Winterberg, Germany: Two-woman, four-man (two races)
5–6 January 2019 Altenburg, Germany: Two-woman, two-man, four-man
12–13 January 2019 Koenigsee, Germany: Two-woman, two-man, four-man
19–20 January 2019 Innsbruck, Austria: Two-woman, two-man, four-man
26–27 January 2019 St. Moritz, Switzerland: Two-man, two-woman, four-man
15–16 February 2019 Lake Placid, USA: Two-woman, two-man, four-man
23–24 February 2019 Calgary, Canada: Two-woman, two-man, four-man
World Championships 1–3 March 2019 Whistler, Canada: Two-man, two-woman, mixed team
World Championships 8–9 March 2019 Whistler, Canada: Four-man