Rush in position for bobsled medal

By ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

WHISTLER, B.C. — It was NASCAR on ice … without the drafting.

And by the end of the thrills and spills in Friday’s first two heats of the four-man bobsled, Canada-1 is in position to take a run at the checkers.

Streaking down the Whistler Sliding Centre course at hold your breath speed — 15 sleds were clocked at 150 km/h or more — seven of the 25 in the field overturned in spectacular fashion.

Canadian pilot Lyndon Rush managed to keep his sled upright, however, and with a two-round clocking of 1:42.15 is in second halfway through the competition, albeit a significant .40 seconds behind the Night Train, as U.S. pilot Steven Holcomb’s sled is known.

“Been there, done that,” Rush said of the perilous conditions, referring to his crash in the two-man race last week. “We made some mistakes at the top but pulled it together at the end.”

Not everyone was so fortunate.

Even the man who sets the gold standard in the event — two-time defending Olympic champion Andre Lange of Germany — had troubles. Lange had to summon every ounce of his world-class talent to keep the sled on its runners late in his second heat and landed in third, just .04 behind Rush.

“It’s not nice sliding on your head at 70 to 80 miles an hour,” said British pilot John Jackson, who was involved in one of the more spectacular spills. “The four-man is just so hard once it gets into trouble. It’s a beast ... you can’t tame it.”

Rotten timing appeared to cost the Canada-2 sled of Pierre Lueders any shot at a medal. On each of their runs, the Canadians had to wait for the track to clear from crashes directly before them.

The tempestuous veteran was livid after a second run that left his sled in sixth place, storming past reporters with a trail of expletives in his wake.

“That’s some crappy, crappy luck right there,” said Lueders’ crewman, Jesse Lumsden. “(The crashes) slows down the track and gets us out of our rhythm. And it chews up the ice. When your job is to push the sled for four seconds to a maximum point of adrenaline, it’s hard to shut down and refocus.

“I’m as pissed as (Lueders). I’m just willing to talk about it.”

While most of the top drivers didn’t complain about the challenge of the track — in fact, many found it appropriate with an Olympic title on the line — the number of smashups raised other concerns.

“It doesn’t have to do only with the track,” said Thomas Florschuetz, the pilot of Germany-2, which sits in fifth place. “It’s also the competition — people who don’t have the experience.”

rob.longley@sunmedia.ca

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