Australia’s Winter Olympic monobob medal hope Bree Walker has opened her campaign with a creditable sixth placing in the World Cup in Austria over the weekend.
Walker won two World Cup races last season on the Innsbruck track, and while she wasn’t able to replicate that form, was happy with her first hitout of the new campaign.
One of the best pushers in the field due to her track and field background, the 28-year-old Victorian got off to her usual explosive start in both the heat and final.
But she was unable to hold her speed through the bottom of the course with a late wall touch in the second race relegating her to sixth.
Two Aussie pairings set to compete: Bree Walker/Sarah Blizzard, and Ashleigh Werner/Kiara Reddingius.#ChasingWinter https://t.co/u1iooY1rZR
– Lachy France (@lachyheel) November 21, 2021
The race was won by Elana Taylor Meyers, ahead of fellow American Kallie Humphries, with Walker just 0.25 seconds off the pace and just 0.02 off fourth.
Australia’s other entry Ashleigh Werner finished 19th.
“I’m very happy to start the season off with a top-six place,” said Walker, who is based in Germany and trains with its national team.
“Of course we always look for the podium, but this is a very different year.
“No one is messing around and you can see that by how tight the field is but it makes for really fun racing.”
Walker is looking to become Australia’s first representative in the new Olympic women’s-only event – an individual bobsleigh – which will debut at the Games in Beijing in February.
The event is unique with all athletes using identical bobs, which removes the advantage of technology and opens it up to more countries to become involved.
Both Australians will back up in Innsbruck in the two-person bobsleigh with Walker partnering brakeperson Sarah Blizzard, while Werner will line up with Kiara Reddingius.
Other Australians in World Cup action over the weekend were dual Olympic luger Alex Ferlazzo and teenage slopestyle freestyle skier Abi Harrigan.
Ferlazzo was hopeful of a top-15 finish on the Beijing course, with the race doubling as an Olympic test event.
But the 26-year-old Queenslander, who trains with the American team, had to settle for 27th, with Johannes Ludwig leading a German sweep of medals.
Harrigan, who is looking to qualify for her first Olympics, finished 28th with slopestyle skiers performing acrobatic manoeuvres on courses that feature rails for sliding and ramps for jumping.
Gold medal favourite, China’s Eileen Gu, withdrew from the World Cup after a training fall but said it wasn’t serious.