Bobsleigh: Zubkov claims double gold for hosts, as track records tumble
There was plenty of joy for the hosts at the Sanki Sliding Centre, as Alexander Zubkov piloted the Russian two-man and four-man crews to gold in the men’s events, while in the women’s two-man, Canada's Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse completed a successful defence of their title, and Lauryn Williams of the USA became just the fifth athlete in history, and only the third woman, to win a medal at both Summer and Winter Games.
16-17 February 2014: Zubkov and Voevoda raise the bar to claim gold in men’s two-man bob
Russia's Alexander Zubkov and Alexey Voevoda clinched gold in the men’s two-man bobsleigh after dominating all four runs, and twice setting a new Sanki Sliding Centre course record. On the first day of competition, the Russians clocked a combined time of one minute 52.82 seconds for their first two runs to finish 0.32 seconds ahead of their closest rivals, Beat Hefti and Alex Baumann (SUI).
Zubkov, the 2011 world champion and 2010 Olympic bronze medallist and 2011 world champion, piloted the Russian bob to a new track record with a time of 56.25 seconds.
Hefti and Baumann, who were fourth after the first run, managed to improve their position to finish the day in second place, just 0.04 seconds ahead of USA’s Steven Holcomb and Steven Langton.
World Cup holder Holcomb, who was part of the US quartet that won gold in the four-man event at Vancouver 2010, piloted a strong first run, finishing just 0.09 seconds behind Zubkov. However, a shaky second run left him and Langton lying third on a combined time of 1:53.18.
On the second day of the competition, Zubkov and Voevoda increased the pressure on their rivals with their third run, setting a another new track record of 56.08 seconds, which effectively put them beyond reach in the final run.
By the end of the competition they had recorded an overall time of 3 minutes 45.39 seconds, to finish 0.66 seconds ahead of Hefti and Baumann, who took the silver.
“Today we just did our work on the track and were not thinking about the time we will show,” said Zubkov. “We were completely concentrated on going the right way. And it paid off as we did our work right.” “The battle with one’s own weaknesses always produces the best result,” added his brakeman, Voevoda. Zubkov now boasts a full set of Olympic bobsleigh medals, as he and Voevoda both featured in the Russian quartet that won silver in the four-man at Turin 2006.
Hefti, a double bronze medallist at Turin 2006, where he competed as a brakeman rather than a pilot, was delighted to add a silver to his Olympic medal collection. “This was our dream and it came true and now we're more than happy,” he said, before paying tribute to the man who beat him to the top of the podium. “Our third run wasn't good but we managed to improve our sliding in the fourth and won the silver medal, while Alexander [Zubkov] produced four perfect runs and deservedly won the gold.”
Meanwhile, US pilot Steve Holcomb held onto third to claim bronze with a combined time of three minutes 46.27 seconds. It was the first Olympic medal of any colour won by an American sled in the two-man in 62 years. “I'm very happy as today there were great races, very tough races,” said the US pilot. “We started to understand this track, how it works, what things to do to go down fast. And there's going be another battle in the four-man event,” he added. “I didn't feel any pressure being in the position for winning the medal as I've been in such a situation many times before. I was just doing my work like hundreds of times before. But it's good to win an Olympic medal… any medal.”
18-19 February 2014: Gold again for Humphries and Moyse in the women’s bobsleigh, as Williams makes Olympic history
Canada's Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse completed a successful defence of their Olympic women's bobsleigh title, while USA’s Lauryn Williams became just the fifth athlete in history, and only the third woman, to win medals in both Summer and Winter Games, after she and Elana Meyers claimed silver.
Former 100m sprinter Williams, part of the US 4x100m relay winning quartet at London 2012, marked her Winter Olympic debut in style, as she and Meyers led in USA-1 after the first two runs. In her first run the Americans set a new track record with a time of 57.26 seconds.
Meyers, who won a bronze medal at Vancouver 2010, then executed another consistent run to clock a combined time of 1 minute 54.89 seconds and finish 0.23 seconds ahead of reigning Olympic champions, Humphries and Moyse.
However, on the second day of competition the Canadian champions fought back, and their overall time of three minutes 50.61 seconds edged them 0.1 seconds ahead of the USA-1 team. Meanwhile the USA-2 team of Jamie Greubel and Aja Evans won bronze with a time of three minutes 51.61 seconds.
“It's really hard to describe my feelings,” said an emotional Humphries, who was keen to pay tribute to the role played by her friends, family and team-mates. “Sacrifices have been made not only by myself but also my friends, my family. And then Heather has come on board. It's just something we have done together. And it's great.”
Williams, who won a silver medal in the women’s 100m at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, and more recently was a member of the US 100m relay squad that won gold at London 2012, had completed a successful switch to bobsleigh, serving as brakewoman on the USA-1 sled. She became just the fifth athlete in history, and only the second woman, to win medals in both the Summer and Winter Games.
“It's really cool to be here, to be on a podium and to get that silver medal,” said Williams, who was keen to deflect attention from her personal achievement. “I came here not to make history but to help the USA. And I feel like I did the best I could for it and I'm really excited with our performance and we're happy to be here.”
Meanwhile, Greubel, the pilot of the USA-2 team, was thrilled to win bronze. “If you've asked me four years ago if I'd be an Olympic medallist I don't think I would have believed you,” she said. “But to cross the finish line and to know that we did it together, it's such an incredible feeling.”
22-23 February: Double gold for Zubkov and Voevoda, as Russian quartet surges to victory in four-man
Alexander Zubkov and Alexey Voevoda won their second gold medals of Sochi 2014, piloting Russia-1 to the four-man title. The Russians clocked a combined time of 1 minute 50.19 seconds from their 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 yet another new Sanki track record with a time of 54.82 seconds. The Latvian sled piloted by Melbardis, fifth after the first run, clocked 55.13, which was the best time in the second run, to close the gap on the Russians to just 0.04 seconds, and finish 0.12 seconds ahead of the Germany-1 crew, piloted by the man who won the four-man World Cup title, Maximilian Arndt.
On the second day, however, Zubkov rose to the occasion again, and despite being pushed all the way Melbardis and his crew during the third and fourth runs, the 39-year old Russian delivered two faultless displays to finish with a combined time of three minutes 40.60 seconds, extending the final winning margin by a fraction to 0.09 seconds.
By completing the bobsleigh double, Zubkov and Voevoda matched a feat managed only once before, by Germany's Andre Lange, who won gold in both events in Turin in 2006. “We have no emotions left after these two runs,” said a visibly drained Zubkov. “We gave all we had for this fourth run as the Latvians were very quick and came really close to us. They kept us under serious pressure but luckily, we managed to avoid serious mistakes and kept our lead,” he added.
Melbardis meanwhile was delighted with his team’s performance and acknowledged the Russians as worthy winners. “I'm really happy. It's just four years that I've been in the driver's seat and already won the Olympic silver medal. It's awesome,” he said. “Of course we tried to get more today but the hosts gave us no chance to overtake them.”
The USA-1 team, with Vancouver 2010 champion Steve Holcomb in the driver's seat, fought their way onto the podium to take bronze, after finding themselves down in fourth place overnight. “We came here to win a medal and we did just that,” said Holcombe. “It was a tough and really tight race. We knew Zubkov is really fast; he's a man who is hard to beat.”