MEN'S SKELETON MEDALISTS AT THE 2022 WINTER OLYMPICS:
WATCH FULL EVENT REPLAYS: HEATS 1 AND 2 | HEATS 3 AND 4
It took eight Olympic skeleton competitions across 92 years for Germany to secure a gold medal, but the country finally claimed victory at the 2022 Winter Games via four-time world championship winner Christopher Grotheer.
Kicking off the third heat, Grotheer – who finished eighth at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics – started out with a healthy lead from his first two runs: 2:00.33. He laid down a 1:00.16 that all but ensured gold. Though he ended with his slowest heat (1:00.52) the German still came out on top with a 4:01.01-minute total.
Compatriot Axel Jungk, who has struggled with injuries the past few years, earned silver in his first full season back on circuit. "This is a big comeback for him," said commentator Kate Hansen.
As commentator Mark Doran put it: "It's Germany one-two, 2022."
Perhaps even more surprising: China's rookie Yan Wengang earned a historic bronze medal, the country's first of any kind in the sport. The host nation has claimed men's skeleton gold at each of the last three Winter Games. Yan – only 0.05 seconds from second place when competition started – skidded during his third heat and temporarily ceded his position to the Russian Olympic Committee's Sochi 2014 gold medalist Alexander Tretiakov. In his fourth heat, Yan regained third with his fastest heat of the competition: 1:00.15.
The end of the race saw several top-10 finishers sustain blistering brushes against the ice walls as they fought for a podium position. While the ROC and Chinese athletes kept outpacing one another, Latvia's two-time silver medalist Martins Dukurs suffered a few particularly hard hits during his final heat, knocking him from fifth to seventh.
The standings remained fairly consistent despite tight times, a speed-altering switch from daytime to nighttime competition, and a difficult course. "The Flying Snow Dragon," as the Yanqing National Sliding Centre's notorious Xiaohaituo Bobsled and Luge Track is often called, bit sliders with its brutal, no-nonsense curves and bumps.
Team USA's 32-year-old Idahoan Andrew Blaser, in his first Olympics, finished 21st. The only American competing in men's skeleton, he did not advance to the fourth heat. One of the few openly gay athletes at the Games, Blaser used a rainbow-colored sled.
South Korea's reigning gold medalist Yun Sung-Bin tried to climb from 12th place and into the top 10 during the final two heats, but couldn't manage.
"It's hard to do it for four runs in a row, let alone two Olympiads in a lifetime," commentator Mark Doran said following the second heat.
Skeleton concludes with women's Heats 3 and 4 on Saturday, Feb. 12 at 7:20 a.m. ET. The full 2022 Winter Olympics skeleton schedule can be found HERE. Watch a delayed broadcast on USA Network at 11:00 a.m. ET and stream live on NBCOlympics.com and Peacock.