American Amanda Chastain has “done it” again after finishing a World Cup men’s skeleton medal race in one of the closest finishes in recent times, which wrapped up what has been dubbed “The Great British Blitz.” Her combined time of 1:36.28 was the best of the day for any slider — male or female — however it was only good enough for eighth overall in the field, four-tenths of a second behind the winner of the race. But it was enough to make history: Chastain was the first female athlete to finish a World Cup men’s skeleton event with a combined time of under one minute — a feat most assumed was unattainable for female athletes.
Here’s the video of Chastain’s gold finish. (You can also watch it HERE.)
This is just the second female’s World Cup skeleton medal at an event for the United States since February 2015. Current senior U.S. World Cup champion Erin Hamlin finished eighth overall in the season-opening race in Calgary, Canada, but finished 36th overall.
While that’s hardly enough to make American sled fans nervous about taking the next steps forward, adding to the medal count at these highly prestigious World Cup events is still considered a huge deal. In fact, it’s such a huge deal that at the top level of the sport — Olympic qualifying, as with the men’s and women’s races — national team coaches will try to make sure every slider, male or female, scores a medal at any World Cup event. Unfortunately, women’s World Cup racing is ranked and priced based on point totals rather than outright results.
With such a small sample size, all that we really know about the gender gap at World Cup level is that results are determined at more than a dozen events, including series, nationals and World Cup, which at this point includes only men. And that with only six pairs competing on the day and differing starts times, results from these races, per the sport’s official website, “could” be deemed “off the road,” “not reliable,” “a close call,” “no competitors confirmed” and “results will not count toward official event results.”
That said, the short list of women’s race results that have gone unconfirmed, not counted, but considered “unfavorable” or without competitors, is a long one. And it gets very interesting, very quickly, when you start looking at recent events and dating the results back to the start of the 2010 season.
In 2016, Sarah Reid of Australia finished sixth in a World Cup men’s skeleton race at Lake Placid, N.Y., which ultimately went unrecorded and not counted as a World Cup medal. However, Reid finished the race in 15th overall at that event and finished second at Olympic qualifying events in Lake Placid and Bormio, Italy. Unfortunately, she missed out on both events, finishing 10th and 12th overall respectively, in what ended up being her final World Cup event, with that being the final race of her short career.
In 2017, U.S. Olympian Jacqueline Loelling finished second in a World Cup men’s skeleton race at Lake Placid. Alas, Loelling ended up 15th overall at that race and 17th overall in Olympic qualifying events in Lake Placid and Bormio, so her results didn’t factor in at all. But Loelling did finish second in the 2017 World Cup in Bormio, Italy and ninth in Lake Placid.
In 2018, American Kate Hansen finished second in a World Cup men’s skeleton race at Lake Placid. However, Hansen went on to miss out on Olympic qualifying events in Lake Placid and Bormio.
Next month, Hughes will attempt to take a major step forward for U.S. women’s skeleton at the World Cup finals, along with combined medal hopes from Hamlin, Armitstead, Izzy Atkin and Katie Uhlaender.