There were sensational scenes in the two-man bobsleigh at the Alpensia Sliding Centre as Canada’s Justin Kripps finished with exactly the same combined time as Germany’s four-time world champion Francesco Friedrich on Monday 19 February.
The Canadian sled lead by just one hundredth of a second approaching the final two hairpin bends, but the event finished a dead heat as their combined time of 3.16.86 matched that of their German rivals.
It is the first time the gold medal has been shared in this event since Nagano 1998, when Italians Gunther Huber and Antonio Tartaglia finished tied for first with Canadian duo Pierre Lueders and David MacEachern with a time of 3.37.24.
Kripps and his team-mate Alexander Kopacz were last down the track and needed a clean and quick final run to take gold at the expense of Francesco Friedrich and Thorsten Margis, who had pushed Latvia’s Janis Strenga into third place by 0.05 seconds.
Germany have now won eight gold medals in the two-man bobsleigh since 1928, Kripps’s first Olympic gold gave Canada only its second victory in the two-man competition since Lueders’s win in Nagano 20 years ago.
Margis, who had pushed Latvia’s Janis Strenga into third place by 0.05 seconds.
Kripps’s first Olympic gold gave Canada only its second victory in the two-man competition since Lueders’s win in Nagano 20 years ago.
A close community
Kripps and Kopacz were delighted to share gold with the German pair, while Kripps admitted he found it incredible that it had been 20 years since compatriot Lueders had tied for gold.
“It's great [sharing gold], it's two more people as happy as we are,” said Kripps. “They are amazing competitors, we have been friends and rivals for years. Franceso [Friedrich] laid down such an amazing run and Thorsten [Margis] has been pushing really well.”
“The whole community supports each other, when people win they are happy and when they lose we all feel sad together,” agreed Kopacz. “And to share it with such a tenacious team like Friedrich and Thorsten is an honour.”
“He [Lueders] actually taught me to drive bobsled,” the 31-year-old Kripps continued of Lueders, who now coaches the Republic of Korea team. “It's pretty insane that I tied for a gold medal 20 years after he did, and about eight years after he taught me. I saw him briefly today in the Korean changing room. He taught me the fundamentals, pretty much everything I know about bobsleigh. It's incredible.”
Both Friedrich and Margis echoed the thoughts of their fellow gold medal winners, and declared their pride at sharing gold with the Canadian duo.
“They were three-hundredths [of a second] in front and we thought they win or it would be a tie,” said Friedrich.
I hoped that we could get a tie and it would be again like last year in the four-man world championships, and it's fantastic.Francesco Friedrich Germany
“I love the Olympic spirit and I hope this race will show it to the world,” added Margis. “It's fantastic to share the gold medal with these two guys, I love them very much and they did a great season. I think we both deserve it.”
Margis added that he was happy to see Melbardis finish with a bronze medal. “He deserves the third place. He fought back too and he had some problems in the season. It was a crazy race,” said 28-year-old Margis.
Melbardis said that winning bronze had meant a lot to him. “It’s an amazing day. It's great, this fight was very great. Today, the runs were good, better than yesterday, and we are happy for Latvia with bronze. It is a great result and I want to thank my team, it is a great job."