PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) The only nation to come to an Olympics and leave with all three bobsled gold medals was Germany, which pulled off the title triple 12 years ago.
Francesco Friedrich has the Germans in position to do it again.
Friedrich and his team of Candy Bauer, Martin Grothkopp and Thorsten Margis leads by nearly three-tenths of a second after Saturday’s first two heats of the four-man competition, the final sliding event of the Pyeongchang Olympics.
Medals will be decided in the final two runs on Sunday, and Germany – which won gold in women’s bobsled and got a shared two-man gold with Canada when Friedrich and Justin Kripps tied for the top spot – surely is thinking about another trip to the top of the podium.
”The two-man race was the best training for the four-man race,” Friedrich said. ”We’re trying to get a medal there as well.”
Friedrich’s team finished two runs in 1 minute, 37.55 seconds. South Korea’s sled driven by Won Yunjong was second in 1:37.84, and another German sled driven by Nico Walther was third in 1:37.90.
The top U.S. sled was ninth, that being the one driven by Olympic rookie Codie Bascue and pushed by Evan Weinstock, Steve Langton and Sam McGuffie. Bascue is racing essentially on one leg, after enduring a bad calf strain during the two-man competition and having that seriously affect his ability to start.
”It’s a really close race,” Bascue said. ”I think we put ourselves in a good position.”
Bascue has three of America’s best pushers with him, so they’re making up for him not being 100 percent at the start. He said he isn’t worried about being able to finish the competition.
”It’s going to hold up two more runs,” Bascue said. ”We’ll make it through. … The medical staff assured me that I’d be all right. I trust them and it hasn’t been feeling too bad walking. Just getting ready to race and stuff, it’s a little achy.”
Langton, who pushed with late pilot Steven Holcomb and won two medals in Sochi four years ago, came away raving about his 23-year-old pilot.
”Truth be told, he had two really good trips today,” Langton said. ”I think our training trips were even better. When Codie’s on, he’s on.”
The rest of the U.S. contingent struggled. Nick Cunningham and his team of Hakeem Abdul-Saboor, Chris Kinney and Sam Michener were 20th. Justin Olsen and his team of Nate Weber, Carlo Valdes and Chris Fogt were 21st.
”The place doesn’t really reflect what we put into it,” Cunningham said. ”We pushed well as a crew, I drove to the best of my ability and we’re going to build on that. We’re going to keep on fighting. We’re not defeated yet.”
Olsen has had issues figuring out Curve 2 all week, and he struggled again with it Saturday.
”In training, we were hit and miss, and we came out today, same thing,” Olsen said. ”Am I upset? Yes. Am I completely surprised? No.”
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