Langen ends decade wait for gold
Germany’s Christoph Langen arrived in Salt Lake City with an incredible track record. He was the reigning two-man and four-man world champion, the latest triumphs in what had been a truly glittering career. He was now 39, but had proved over the course of the latest World Cup season that he remained at the peak of his powers, winning three of the four races he entered, and finishing second in the other.
Langen was undisputedly one of the greats of bobsleigh sport, but there was one thing missing from his record: an Olympic gold in the two-man bob. He had competed at three editions of the Games with some distinction, amassing bronze medals in 1992 and 1998 in the two-man, and a four-man gold in Nagano; but for a sportsman of his calibre, the absence of a gold in the two-man was a glaring omission.
Salt Lake City was likely to be his final opportunity, but just two weeks before the Games he suffered a setback when injury robbed him of his regular brakeman Marko Jacobs. Langen brought in Markus Zimmerman as a late substitute and approached the competition knowing that his driving would have to be at its very best. What he didn't know was that the competition would turn out to be a truly epic duel.
The first run saw Switzerland's Christian Reich open up the slenderest of leads, with an advantage of 0.02 seconds over Langen. On each of the next two runs, the German took 0.01 seconds out of that lead, meaning that he and Reich were dead level after three runs. The third run had seen the Swiss bob break the track record… only for the German bob to break it again by a 0.01 seconds margin.
The gold would be decided on the result of the final run. Without his normal brakeman, Langen was unable to rely on fast starts, and it was the same in the final run when the German pair could only manage the eighth fastest start time. Yet Langen then produced a quite supreme display of driving to bring his bob home in 47.61 seconds and beat the Swiss by 0.09 seconds. It had been a magnificent contest between the two sleds, and after a decade of trying, Langen struck gold in the two-man bob.