Boar-hunting Canadian bobsledders come up short

Canada's pilot Justin Kripps, Jesse Lumsden, Cody Sorensen and Ben Coakwell are assisted as their...

Canada's pilot Justin Kripps, Jesse Lumsden, Cody Sorensen and Ben Coakwell are assisted as their sled flips during the four-man bobsleigh event at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, at the Sanki Sliding Center in Rosa Khutor February 22, 2014. (REUTERS)

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 10:35 AM ET

SOCHI, RUSSIA - The hunt for a bobsled medal for Canada has ended, and now a different kind of hunt begins.

“Me and Jesse (Lumsden) are going to go boar-hunting in Hawaii,” said Canada 3 pilot Justin Kripps, who was born in Na’Alehu, Hawaii. “They have a real boar problem there and we are going to take care of it.”

Might as well take care of the boar problem in Hawaii. None of the three Canadian four-man sleds took care of business at the Sochi Games this weekend. The highest finish of the three Canadian sleds was a ninth, by Canada 2 piloted by Lyndon Rush.

It was a tough couple of days for the Canadians in the four-man, starting with some anger and hurt feelings when the team coaches decided to shake up the roster in a couple of the sleds.

In a effort to maximize the team’s medal chances, the coaching staff ordered Jesse Lumsden, Cody Sorensen and Ben Coakwell to join Kripps in Canada 3. The trio had been with Canada 1 pilot Chris Spring throughout the World Cup season and Spring was not pleased with the last-minute switch.

“I might have been Canada 1 up on the board but I was Canada 3 to the coaches,” said Calgary resident Spring, who is hails originally Darwin, Australia.

Kripps won his first ever World Cup race in Germany last month and finished sixth in the two-man event in Sochi. He had outperformed both Spring and Rush of late. Afterwards, Canadian coach Tom De La Hunty was not about to second guess their decision.

“Justin Kripps is in his fourth year as a pilot. He is inexperienced but he is going to be a very big star in this sport,” said De La Hunty. “I have no regrets, we put ourselves in place of winning a medal.”

The shakeup didn’t appear to matter as none of the three Canadian sleds performed up to expectations.

Rush — along with Lascelles Brown, Dave Bissett, and Neville Wright — finished ninth, followed by Canada 1 in 13th — Spring, James McNaughton, Tim Randall and Bryan Barnett. Kripps and Canada 3 did not qualify for the final run.

The weekend began with a shake up and ended with disappointment. Along the way was a scary crash on Friday when Canada 3 flipped came out of a turn toward the end of the run and slid upside down for the remainder of the course. Kripps, Lumsden, Sorensen and Coakwell all received medical attention and were able to walk away from the finish line. Kripps waved to the crowd, which cheered in support. However, all four were then taken to hospital. Kripps and Lumsden were later ruled fit to race on Sunday, Sorensen and Coakwell were not and were replaced by Graeme Rinholm and Luke Demetre.

“That kind of crash is unlucky. It’s been a bittersweet 24 hours, it wasn’t pleasant,” said Kripps. “I was getting ready for turn 13 and suddenly my face pressed against the ice.

“It was one of those crashes that wasn’t anyone’s fault. It was like a perfect storm,” he added. “We were fighting for a medal; those hopes have been shattered like carbon fibre and like ice.”

Russian pilot Alexander Zubkov (along with brakeman Alexey Voevoda) ended up sweeping the two-man and four-man events at the Olympics. German legend Andre Lange swept the podiums at both the 2006 and 2010 Olympics.

“I was fighting with the track,” said Zubkov. “I didn’t think about the seconds. I wanted to create a masterwork. The track conquers me or I conquer the track. (In the end) the team did everything they could. We did the impossible.”

Zubkov’s triumph is also a triumph for Pierre Lueders, arguably the all-time greatest Canadian bobsledder. Lueders won two-man gold at the 1998 Nagano Olympics and silver at the 2006 Games in Turin. The Edmonton native also won two world championships. In May 2012, he was named head coach of the Russian national bobsled team. Oskars Melbardis, piloting LAT-1, won silver, Latvia’s first medal in this sport, while Steven Holcomb, piloting USA-1, won bronze.

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca

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