TWO-MAN BOBSLED MEDALISTS AT THE 2022 WINTER OLYMPICS:
Germany not only won its seventh of eight contested sliding sport events at the 2022 Winter Olympics with Francesco Friedrich's first-place finish in two-man bobsled – the country also swept the podium.
In doing so, Germany became the first nation to sweep the podium in any Olympic bobsled event, and the first to claim all three medals in a single event at the 2022 Winter Games.
After four heats, it was Friedrich, Lochner, Hafer in first, second, and third. With his victory, 13-time world champion Friedrich successfully defended one of his two PyeongChang 2018 golds.
The trio of German pilots managed near-flawless runs through the Yanqing National Sliding Centre's highly technical and tricky Xiaohaituo Bobsled and Luge Track, nicknamed "The Dragon." Most others in the field endured hard hits and bled seconds from the lead.
Friedrich kicked off the second half of competition, utilizing a strong start and fresh ice to hit a track record in 58.99 seconds. Lochner, on the other hand, took a bite from "The Dragon" on unlucky curve 13, finishing with this worst time yet – 59.32.
Then the Russian Olympic Committee's Rostislav Gaitiukevich, in third at the midpoint, began with his slowest run yet, which opened the door for Hafer to slide into third with a solid, 59.51-second heat.
Within minutes, Germany occupied all the podium positions. This left the rest of the field with a tough decision: More speed and risk disaster, or less speed and more control?
Most pilots drove fast – and often rather recklessly – during their third runs, to varying degrees of success. Great Britain's Brad Hall gunned it hard, and up until the very end, looked like he could dive deep into the top 10. But again, "The Dragon's" curve 13 proved to be too much. Hall and partner Nicholas Gleeson were chucked overboard in a brutal crash – something Jamaicans Shanwayne Stephens and Nimroy Turgott barely escaped during their second heat. Still, Hall and Gleeson crossed the finish line intact.
Unfortunately, pilot Hunter Church and pusher Charlie Volker didn't perform as well. Church, struggling after toe surgery, was simply too slow to crack the top 20. As a result, the second American team did not advance to a fourth run. Still, Church clapped at the camera and seemingly smiled as he shouted: "Love you, Mom and Dad!"
The beloved Jamaican team took another massive Heat 3-hit, but stayed the course. After crossing the finish line, Stephens and Turgott pulled out their Jamaican flag and waved it to the camera. Like the Americans, their campaign ended with a third run.
Bobsledders went in opposite order for Heat 4, and almost all of them went for broke. Korea's pilot Won Yun-Jong, who won four-man silver at PyeongChang 2018, immediately smacked the side at the top and pinballed from wall to wall. Hall continued to drive aggressively, and though a few of his runners went airborne for a second time, his sled returned to the ground. He and Gleeson crossed the finish line safely – with a sub-one minute heat. They landed in 11th after four runs.
Del Duca and Abdul-Saboor skidded a few times in their final heat of the 2022 Winter Olympics. They finished in 1:00.15, translating to 13th place. Though they failed to crack the top 10, Del Duca and Abdul-Saboor bested PyeongChang 2018's top American two-man duo, Justin Olsen and Evan Weinstock, who finished 14th.
Stuck in fourth place, Switzerland's driver Michael Vogt and pusher Michel Sandro threatened to move into third with a beautiful 59.70-second run. But Hafer and partner Sommer put any doubts to rest with an even better heat, and it became clear that – unless they crashed – the Germans would likely maintain a grip on all three podium positions.
They did just that. Lochner and Bauer ripped a gorgeous 59.53-second run, securing at least silver. Friedrich and Margis performed just one tenth of a second quicker in their final heat, but almost half of a second better overall.
Why is Germany so dominant in sliding sports? Several reasons: They have four tracks, the most of any country. Additionally, potential athletes take to the sliding sports at a younger age than other nations. Germany's passion for bobsled, in particular, is reflected in their Olympic history: The country has won 20 of 51 gold medals, 47 of 148 medals in total.
Friedrich remains the force to beat in the four-man event, which he also won at PyeongChang 2018. If he can grab another gold at these Games, the now three-time Olympic champion will certainly enter the conversation of best-ever in his sport.