Updated Jan. 14 and Feb. 4
No offense to those who give a big push at the start and go through the impeccably choreographed procedure of getting in the sled, but we’ll have to focus on drivers for these rankings. They’re the ones who get ranked, and the brakemen / brakewomen / push athletes will undoubtedly get shuffled before the Games.
Sweeps are theoretically possible. In each event, a couple of countries can bring three sleds. Some countries can even bring four drivers for the two men’s events.
But you can’t take a bunch of backup push athletes, which is why Lolo Jones and Lauryn Williams were somewhat controversial inclusions.
Here we go …
Gold: Beat Hefti (Switzerland)
Silver: Francesco Friedrich (Germany)
Bronze: Alexander Zubkov (Russia)
Also: Thomas Florschütz (Germany), Steven Holcomb (USA), Oskars Melbardis (Latvia), Lyndon Rush (Canada)
World Cup 2013-14 top 8: Holcomb, Hefti, Zubkov, Friedrich, Cory Butner (USA), Nick Cunningham (USA), Rush, Florschütz
World Cup 2012-13 top 8: Rush, Melbardis, Manuel Machata (Germany), Holcomb, Zubkov, Friedrich, Simone Bertazzo (Italy), Butner … (Hefti and Florschütz missed part of the season.)
2013 World Championship top 8: Friedrich, Hefti, Florschütz, Holcomb, Melbardis, Chris Spring (Canada), Zubkov, Rush
2010 Olympic medalists: Andre Lange (Germany, retired), Florschütz, Zubkov
Gold: Alexander Zubkov (Russia)
Silver: Maximilian Arndt (Germany)
Bronze: Steven Holcomb (USA)
Also: Oskars Melbardis (Latvia)
World Cup 2013-14 top 8: Arndt, Holcomb, Zubkov, Thomas Florschütz (Germany), Chris Spring (Canada), Alexander Kasjanov (Russia), Melbardis, Francesco Friedrich (Germany)
World Cup 2012-13 top 8: Zubkov, Melbardis, Manuel Machata (Germany), Arndt, John James Jackson (Britain), Holcomb, Lyndon Rush (Canada), Kasnajov
2013 World Championship top 8: Arndt, Zubkov, Holcomb, Hefti, Jackson, Rico Peter (Switzerland), Florschütz, Machata
2010 Olympic medalists: Holcomb, Andre Lange (Germany, retired), Rush
Gold: Kaillie Humphries (Canada)
Silver: Elana Meyers (USA)
Bronze: Sandra Kiriasis (Germany)
Also: Jamie Greubel (USA), Cathleen Martini (Germany), Anja Schneiderheinze (Germany)
World Cup 2013-14 top 8: Humphries, Meyers, Greubel, Kiriasis, Martini, Schneiderheinze, Jazmine Fenlator (USA), Fabienne Meyer (Switzerland)
World Cup 2012-13 top 8: Humphries, Kiriasis, Martini, Schneiderheinze, Esme Kamphuis (Netherlands), Meyers, Meyer, Christina Hengster (Austria)
2013 World Championship top 8: Humphries, Meyers, Kiriasis, Martini, Schneiderheinze, Kamphuis, Miriam Wagner (Germany), Fenlator
2010 Olympic medalists: Humphries, Helen Upperton (Canada), Erin Pac (USA; retired)
Maximilian Arndt (Germany): 2013 four-man world champion (w/Marko Huebenbecker, Alexander Roediger, Martin Putze). Also had two first and two seconds in the last five World Cup four-man races. Silver (four-man) and bronze (two-man) in 2012 worlds.
Cory Butner (USA): Two runner-up finishes on home ice in World Cup two-man races in 2012-13.
Nick Cunningham (USA): Third place on home ice in World Cup four-man race at Lake Placid 2012.
Thomas Florschütz (Germany): 2010 two-man bronze medalist and three-time World Championship two-man runner-up came on strong at the end of 2012-13, with one win and two runner-up finishes in last four two-man races. Also third in World Championship two-man (w/Andreas Bredau).
Francesco Friedrich (Germany): 2013 two-man world champion (w/Jannis Baecker). Reached podium in six of seven two-man World Cup races in 2012-13.
Steven Holcomb (USA): Great story, told in his book But Now I See: My Journey from Blindness to Olympic Gold. Won four-man world title in 2009, four-man Olympic gold in 2010 and BOTH world titles in 2012. In 2012-13: Ran well in the USA and not as well in Europe. Won first three two-man races and finished fourth on the season; finished sixth overall in four-man. The “Night Train” four-man sled (Steve Langton, Justin Olsen, Curt Tomasevicz) gets the publicity, but he’s formidable in two-man as well.
Beat Hefti (Switzerland): Not a big-band leader of the 1940s but a veteran with three Olympic bronze medals (2002 two-man, 2006 both races) and one world title (2007 four-man). Missed part of the 2012-13 World Cup season, then won three two-man and one four-man race. Also second in World Championship two-man (w/Thomas Lamparter).
John James Jackson (Britain): No finish higher than fifth in World Cup 2012-13, but he finished fifth overall in four-man. World Championship four-man? Also fifth. Also a longtime Royal Marine commando. Ruptured Achilles this summer but is already training again.
Alexander Kasjanov (Russia): Had a couple of World Cup four-man podium finishes in 2012-13. Fourth in 2011-12 World Cup four-man.
Manuel Machata (Germany): Huge year in 2010-11: Four-man World Cup champion, two-man World Cup runner-up, two-man and four-man world champion. 2011-12: Third in World Championship four-man. 2012-13: Third in each World Cup discipline. Missed out on Olympics. That’s how tough the German team is.
Oskars Melbardis (Latvia): Good career as push athlete; switched to driver for 2010-11 season and has a few World Cup podium finishes. Second in each discipline in 2012-13 World Cup.
Lyndon Rush (Canada): Two-man World Cup champion 2012-13, with two wins. 2010 bronze medalist in four-man. Second in two-man in 2012 worlds. Longtime two-man partner is former CFL football player Jesse Lumsden.
Alexander Zubkov (Russia): Dominant in four-man 2012-13, winning five of his eight World Cup races and missing the podium only once. World Championship four-man runner-up (with Alexey Negodaylo, Dmitry Trunenkov, Maxim Mokrousov). Not as strong in two-man, but he does have 2010 bronze and 2011 world title.
Jazmine Fenlator (USA): Former brakewoman had two podiums in 2012-13.
Kaillie Humphries (Canada): 2010 gold medalist was overwhelming in 2012-13: Six wins, one second-place finish and two third-place finishes. Plus the World Championship, her second straight. Husband Dan is a push athlete (not on her sled, obviously).
Esme Kamphuis (Netherlands): Fifth in World Cup 2012-13. Sixth in 2010-11 (one podium).
Sandra Kiriasis (Germany): Olympic finishes: 2002 silver, 2006 gold, 2010 fourth. World champion in 2005, 2007 and 2008. In 2012-13: Two wins out of six podiums in nine World Cup races (second overall), third in World Championships.
Cathleen Martini (Germany): One win, three podiums (third overall) in World Cup 2012-13. World champion in 2011; World Cup champion in 2011-12. Fourth in last two World Championships. Crashed in 2010 Olympics.
Fabienne Meyer (Switzerland): Fourth (top non-German) in 2011-12 World Cup, with four podiums. In 2012-13: Seventh with one podium.
Elana Meyers (USA): 2012-13: Not consistent but had four World Cup podiums and runner-up finish in World Championships.
Anja Schneiderheinze (Germany): Sandra Kiriasis’ former brakewoman started World Cup driving career midway through 2010-11 World Cup with three straight runner-up finishes. Second in 2011-12 World Cup (two wins); fourth in 2012-13 World Cup. Fifth in 2013 World Championships.