Friday , December 14 2018

Canada, Germany in golden dead heat – Lorentzen wins gold in photo finish

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea, Feb 19, (Agencies): Canada and Germany shared gold in a “crazy” climax to the two-man bobsleigh on Monday at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics after they finished in a remarkable dead heat.

It is the first time since Nagano 1998, and only the second time in Games history, that has happened — the first time also involved Canada.

The Canadian vintage of 2018, led by Hawaiian-born Justin Kripps, went in the final run to snatch a place alongside the Francesco Friedrich-piloted German duo at the top of the podium.

Bronze went to Latvia just 0.05sec behind in the high-octane event in which competitors whizz around the icy track at speeds of up to 150 kilometres (90 miles) per hour.

After the Canadians surged to the finish line in the last run in the fourth and final heat, the waiting Germans raced onto the track to congratulate their rivals as all four men celebrated wildly and hugged one another.

Kripps’s brakeman Alexander Kopacz later admitted that the Canadian duo did not immediately know that they had shared gold.

“We just thought we had won outright. You see a number one on the time and it doesn’t really tell you that you’ve tied so Justin realised sooner than I did that we had tied for first,” said a disbelieving Kopacz.

“It took me a couple of minutes, we were in the changing room and I said that I wasn’t sure what just happened.

“It does not take anything away, we are all extremely happy and it’s such an honour to tie with such a strong team.”

The medal places were fiercely contested throughout, with a mere 0.13secs splitting five teams — three of them German — going into the last heat.

Four-time former world champion Friedrich and his brakeman Thorsten Margis must have thought they had done enough to claim the Olympic title outright. But Kripps and Kopacz had other ideas and romped home with the exact same aggregate time, 3:16.86.

Like his teammate, Kripps said it took a few moments for him to realise that they had clocked the same time as the Germans.

“I found out slightly sooner than Alex did and I actually couldn’t find him for a while after we crossed the finish line,” said the 31-year-old Kripps.

“I managed to see the clock that said ‘One’ on it and at first I thought we had won outright as well, then these guys (the German pair) jumped over and they’re super excited and I thought, ‘Wow, these guys are really happy for us, that’s great.’

“Then Thorsten was giving me a hug and he said … it was a tie, and I thought, ‘Oh, it was a tie.’

“It’s crazy.”

A triumphant Margis could hardly believe what had happened either.

“I love the Olympic spirit and I hope this race will show the Olympic spirit to the world,” said the German.

By coincidence, Pierre Lueders, one of the Canadians involved when they similarly shared gold in 1998, that time with Italy, was in attendance on Monday night.

Lueders is now in charge of the South Korean bobsleigh team at their home Games.

Norwegian Havard Lorentzen struck gold in the men’s 500 metres speedskating at the Gangneung Oval on Monday after edging out South Korea’s Cha Min-kyu in a dramatic photo finish.

After Cha had broken the Olympic record in a blistering lap, the ice-cool Lorentzen went 0.01 seconds faster, zooming around the track in a time of 34.41. Chinese Gao Tingyu took the bronze medal. “I was tying my skates when Cha did his race and the atmosphere was amazing. Then he sets the Olympic record,” Lorentzen told reporters.

“I wasn’t sure I could beat that but I knew I could at least do a medal. And when I did the last 50 metres I said to myself this has to be a medal ….  And then to cross the finish line and the entire stadium just goes to silence — it’s quite cool.”

Lorentzen was the first Norwegian to win the Olympic 500m title since Finn Helgesen 70 years ago and he became his country’s first medallist in the event since Magne Thomassen won silver in 1968.

Norway, once a powerhouse in the sport alongside the Netherlands, has struggled in recent decades and until Monday had not won a gold medal in speedskating at the Olympics since Adne Sondral’s victory in the 1,500m in Nagano in 1998.

Racing in the 14th pair, Cha stormed out of the gates to send the crowd wild and the Korean brought the house down when he crossed in record time with eight racers to come.

“It has more meaning that it (happened) in my own country,” the Korean said of his silver medal, speaking through and interpreter.

“There might not be another time when the Winter Olympics might be happening in Korea, so I’m so happy to get this medal.”

Lorentzen, who was in the third-last pair alongside Sochi bronze medallist Ronald Mulder of the Netherlands, was behind Cha after the first 100 metres, but edged in front over the race.

He ended with a flurry of effort, his arms and legs pumping like pistons, before waiting nervously until the timekeepers put his name up on the big screen.

“It’s the best race I’ve ever done,” said the 25-year-old, who is coached by Canadian Jeremy Wotherspoon, a former 500m world record holder.

“It’s been 20 years since the last gold (for) Norway in speedskating, so it’s been a while. It was time for Norway to step up on the top of the podium again. It feels so good to do that.”

The Dutch, who swept the podium in Sochi, finished outside the medal places for the second race in succession after their failure to medal in the women’s 500m on Sunday.

Mulder, whose twin brother Michel won gold at the last Olympics but failed to qualify for the Pyeongchang Games, was the highest-placed of the three Dutch skaters in seventh.

At the Sochi Games, the Netherlands dominated the speedskating events, winning 23 of 36 medals, including eight golds. The have won six speedskating golds in Korea so far, and 11 of the 27 medals on offer.

“It’s not good when one nation dominates (speedskating) too much. Today and yesterday there were no Dutch on the podium,” Lorentzen said. “It’s good for the sport.”

A doping case involving a medal-winning Russian curler rocked the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics on Monday, as Mikaela Shiffrin’s turbulent Games took another twist when she pulled out of the downhill skiing.

Alexander Krushelnitsky’s failed drug test came to light a week after he won mixed doubles bronze with his wife, Anastasia Bryzgalova, and could extend Russia’s suspension from the Olympics.

The case, now with the Court of Arbitration for Sport, will be considered by Olympic officials deciding whether to lift Russia’s ban in time for Sunday’s closing ceremony.

“Should this case be proven … that will also be part of the consideration as to whether there will be an allowance for them to march in the closing ceremony under their flag,” said International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams.

Russia were banned from the Olympics after investigations revealed an extensive doping plot culminating at the Sochi 2014 Winter Games, where the hosts topped the medals table.

But 168 Russian athletes declared clean after extensive vetting were allowed to compete in Pyeongchang as neutrals, under the banner of “Olympic Athletes from Russia”.

“Only athletes for whom there was no suspicion were invited to the Games,” Adams said, adding: “Unfortunately wherever there’s competitive sport, you’ll have people cheating.

“But I think you can be pretty confident we have a very, very thorough testing process in place and we have the experts with the expertise who are doing that.” Robert Johansson and his bushy handlebar moustache anchored Norway to victory in the men’s team ski jump, while Havard Lorentzen won the men’s 500m speedskating as Norway went clear on the medals table with 11 golds to Germany’s 10.

In figure skating, Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir smashed the short dance world record, but French rival Gabriella Papadakis was left in tears by an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction.

As Virtue and Moir glided, twizzled and spun their way to a best-ever score of 83.67, Papadakis performed stoically with her partner Guillaume Cizeron after her dress became unclipped early in their routine.

“It was pretty distracting, my worst nightmare at the Olympics,” the 22-year-old Papadakis said. “I felt it right away and I prayed.”

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