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Olympics / Sports

US bobsled team shifts assignments

SOCHI, Russia -- No one would ever accuse the U.S. Bobsled team of being predictable.

The federation surprised many Saturday when it announced that top pilot Elana Meyers would compete here with sprinter-turner-brakeman Lauryn Williams. The move broke up the yearlong partnership between Meyers and Aja Evans, who won five medals together on the World Cup Circuit this season.

Meyers and Williams have only raced together once, finishing second in Lake Placid in November.

By being paired with the team's best driver, Williams was afforded her best shot at becoming only the second athlete -- and first woman -- to win gold in both the Winter and Summer Games. The only person to accomplish this feat is Eddie Eagan, who won boxing gold in 1920 and four-man bobsled gold in 1932.

Williams won gold as part of the women's 400 relay team in London and won a silver medal in the 100 meter in Athens in 2004. She began bobsledding earlier this year and won three medals on the World Cup circuit in her rookie season.

The U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation made its unexpected decision after two days of unofficial training at the Sanki Sliding Center. The federation said it evaluated start times during those practices runs and decided the course complimented Williams' speed.

"One of the unique things about the sport of bobsled is that every track and every start is different. We have the luxury of aligning the optimal combinations due to our amazing depth of push athletes," federation CEO Darrin Steele said in a statement to the Tribune. "Some tracks are going to favor the explosive acceleration that Aja provides and others that will favor the higher top end speed that Lauryn can offer. When races come down to hundredths of a second, you have to optimize the combinations for the Olympic track, which slightly favors the Meyers/Williams combination."

Evans, a former University of Illinois track and field star, had been considered the team's top brakeman since she and Meyers won silver at the Olympic test event here last year. She will race with Jamie Greubel with whom she has not raced this season. The duo partnered together a few times during the 2012-13 season.

"When races come down to hundredths of a second, you have to optimize the combinations for the Olympic track, which slightly favors the Meyers/Williams combination," Steele said. "Aja and Jamie also have a history of success, so I'm excited these teams compete. All three teams have the ability to get on the podium"

Greubel is currently ranked No. 3 in the world, thanks in part to her three World Cup medals this season with brakeman Katie Eberling. Eberling -- the reigning world silver medalist -- was passed over for in the Olympic team last month in favor of track star Lolo Jones.

Jones, as expected, will compete in the U.S. team's third sled with pilot Jazmine Fenlator. Fenlator is currently ranked No. 7 in the world.

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