Andre Lange shines in Vancouver
The big question in bobsleigh was whether the legendary German pilot Andre Lange, considered by many to be the greatest bobsledder of all time, could end his glorious career on a high. Germany’s flagbearer at the Opening Ceremony, Lange inspired among his rivals a respect that bordered on awe.
His achievements on the Olympic stage to that point were already remarkable. The winner of gold in the four-man back in 2002, he followed up with victories in both the two- and four-man events in Turin four years later. But Lange had turned 36 by the time Vancouver 2010 came around and was widely expected to retire afterwards. What drove him on was the knowledge that one more gold would make him the most successful bobsleigh pilot in Olympic history.
Achieving that milestone wasn’t easy. Although Lange had won twice that season, his two-man bob had already suffered defeat at the hands of the other German team, while the Swiss were expected to go well and Canadians had the advantage of local knowledge. In Lange’s favour, however, was his ability to stay calm amid the pressure cooker environment of Olympic competition.
The first run set the standard. Switzerland I, piloted by Ivo Ruegg, broke the track record, a mark that was then lowered by Thomas Florschütz’s Germany II. Lange, driving Germany I, was just 0.02 seconds slower, setting up a titanic battle between the two German teams.
In the end, Lange, with Kevin Kuske alongside him, prevailed by a margin of 0.22 seconds. He had equalled the track record on his third attempt and was fastest overall by the end of the fourth and final run. A fourth successive gold medal was his.
In the four-man competition, Lange’s quartet showed incredible spirit as they set the fastest time of the final run to leap from third to second, though it was not quite enough to secure another title, and he had to settle for silver. Having racked up four golds and that silver in the course of three editions of the Games, Lange promptly announced his retirement.