Bobsleigh-Friedrich caps off German sliding gold rush with four-man crown

3 minute read
Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

YANQING, China, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Francesco Friedrich's crew capped off an extraordinary showing of German sliding prowess this Winter Olympics by thundering to gold in the four-man event on Sunday, further elevating his position in the pantheon of the sport's all-time greats.

Germany has always been strong in bobsleigh. But it has taken its domination to another level at the Yanqing National Sliding Centre, clinching nine out of 10 sliding golds and 17 of the 30 medals the sport had to offer.

The Dresden police officer they call the 'Ice Kaiser' gave an imperious performance in the last run of the Games, a black and yellow blur flashing down "Flying Snow Dragon" track under an azure sky.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

His team finished with a combined time of 3:54.30 after four runs.

"We hope it goes on," Friedrich said after the race. "Our goal is to make four more years."

That was 0.37 seconds faster than the crew of his compatriots piloted by Johannes Lochner, who settled for silver behind Friedrich again, just as on the podium for the two-man event on Tuesday night.

"There's always a chance to beat him, but the point is that he has to do a mistake." Lochner said of Friedrich.

"Today it was our mistake, so no chance for us."

Despite the on-track battles the pair remain friend, Lochner said.

"We see us every day, so it's a small bobsleigh family. When we go to the track, when we put on the helmet and close the visor, then we start to compete against and try to fight for every hundredth."

Germany was tantalisingly close to a historic second medal sweep in the bobsleigh, but for Canadian Justin Kripps and his team, 0.79 seconds off Friedrich's pace.

After three strong runs their fourth was relatively weak, with their advantage over Christoph Hafer's crew dwindling with each corner they turned down the serpentine track.

In the end, the Canadians were just 0.06 seconds faster, enough to deny another German wipeout.

"One of the things when you're up against the Germans, when you can beat one of them, when you can get a medal despite that it means so much, because it's so hard to do," Kripps said.

"It feels incredible to be able to get on the podium amidst such a dominant performance from them."

Kripps did however have doubts whether German dominance was good for the sport.

"The athletes are so good. Great drivers, great pushers, and so you can't take anything away from those guys, they deserve to be Olympic medallists and they are."

"With the equipment, though, it's a bit difficult because you have to spend so much money on these sleds, and most countries don't or can't. The advantage it gives you is really big."

Friedrich joked before the Olympics that he was struggling to find space at home for his bobsleigh treasure trove - the squeeze will be worse after again winning the two- and four-man events as he did in Pyeongchang four years ago.

It was a great morning for Britain, with Brad Hall's team delivering the country's best four-man performance since 1998 with their sixth place finish.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
Reporting by David Kirton; Editing by Jacqueline Wong, Himani Sarkar and Michael Perry

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.