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Jamanka obliterates track record en route to gold

Canadian de Bruin celebrates bronze on 30th birthday
Mariama Jamanka and Annika Drazek celebrate the women's bobsleigh World Championships win at Whistler Sliding Centre on March 3. Stephanie Schneider and Ann-Christin Stack (at left) took silver and the Canadian duo of Christine de Bruin and Kristen Bujnowski (at right) earned bronze. Photo by Dan Falloon

In the BMW IBSF World Championships competition where her four-run combined time was a full 1.06 seconds ahead of her nearest competitor, it wasn't always smooth sailing for Mariama Jamanka.

The German bobsleigh pilot, along with Annika Drazek on the brakes, nearly coughed up a hard-earned advantage on the fourth and final run after smashing the walls near the finish line in March 3 racing.

It was a far cry from the duo's first run of the day in which they smashed the track record, set the previous day by Americans Elana Meyers Taylor and Lake Kwaza, by an unheard-of 0.47 seconds, but that buffer allowed them to claim their first gold in the two-woman event.

"It was amazing. I can't believe that we really made it and we are world champions," she said. "The last run was very, very bad and I was disappointed about myself.

"The third one was great. We went down the track in first place and we were just like 'Just do your thing.'"

In second place were fellow Germans Stephanie Schneider and Ann-Christin Strack while Canadians Christine de Bruin and Kristen Bujnowski claimed third, 0.11 seconds behind Schneider's sled.

"Yesterday, we were really nervous with our expectations, but we were able to brush it off and we did that today," she said. "It was awesome."

What changed the landscape for de Bruin and Bujnowski came early in the third run, as Meyers Taylor, who sat in second at that point, crashed and fell toward the back of the pack before opting not to race the fourth heat.

The other two Canadians sleds finished in the bottom half of the draw, with Alyssia Rissling and Cynthia Serwaah dropping from eighth after Saturday to 11th overall while Kori Hol and Melissa Lotholz improved their times in all four runs, but finished in last place among the 14 sleds that completed all four heats.

Later in the afternoon, de Bruin took a second medal by helping Canada 1 to silver in the team competition. Paired with Mackenzie Stewart on the brakes, the team also featured Nick Poloniato and Keefer Joyce manning the men's sled and skeleton racers Dave Greszczyszyn and Mirela Rahneva. The Germans won gold while the Americans won bronze.

Three events, men's and women's skeleton and four-man bobsleigh, will take place next week beginning Thursday, March 7 at 9 a.m.