The four-man Olympic bobsleigh competition is set for a thrilling second day finale after the Russian team piloted by Alexander Zubkov established a lead of just 0.04 seconds at the half-way stage.
Zubkov, targeting his second gold of the Winter Games after winning the two-man event, clocked a combined time of 1 minute 50.19 seconds after two runs, a whisker in front of the Latvia-1 team piloted by Oskars Melbardis.
On his first run, Zubkov, who won silver in the four-man event at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, set a new track record with a time of 54.82 seconds.
Melbardis’ sled, fifth after the first run, clocked 55.13, the best time in the second run, to close the gap on the Russians and finish 0.12 seconds ahead of the Germany-1 crew, piloted by this season's World Cup four-man title winner Maximilian Arndt.
“We made too many mistakes in the first run, especially at the start,” said a rueful Melbardis, who will be hoping his crew can maintain their momentum on the second day of competition.
“But in the second we performed much better both at the start and on the lower part of the track.
“Tomorrow those who manage to make fewest mistakes will win. We will do our best to avoid mistakes.”
The four-man medal winners will be decided after the third and fourth runs on 23 February, with the times of all four runs are added together to determine the winner.