Sochi recap: Men’s four-man bobsled

It wasn’t easy, but Steve Holcomb drove USA-1 to the bronze medal today, marking the 28th and final medal for the United States in Sochi. It also gave the U.S. its seventh overall medal at the Sanski Sliding Center (luge, skeleton, and bobsled), the most of any country

Alexander Zubkov won a rare double gold, finishing first today, to go along with his gold in the two-man competition in Sochi, winning Russia’s first gold in four-man bobsled.

Oskars Melbardis piloted Latvia-1 to his country’s first-ever Olympic medal, winning the silver medal after four solid runs, finishing only .09 behind Zubkov.

This marks the first time since 1956 Germany didn’t medal in the four-man competition.

Date: 23-Feb

Sport: Bobsled

Event: Men’s four-man, runs 3 and 4

Medalists: Russia-1, Latvia-1, USA-1

How the U.S. Fared:  In USA-1, Holcomb, Steve Langton, Curt Tomasevicz, and Christopher Fogt came into the day with work to do. After a relatively poor start in run two, they had a start of 4.78 in run three and stayed clean early. But a skid in same spot on curve five as in the first run caused Holcomb to lose time. The Night Train 2 picked up time, finishing at 85 mph and moving into third (past Germany-1) with a run time of 55.30. Headed into the final run in third place, Holcomb once again bumping out of five, but this time maintained speed and keept momentum. Top speed at the bottom (85.7 mph) helped USA-1 best the over-performing Russia-2 team and win the bronze with a total time of 3:40.99.

In USA-2, pilot Nick Cunningham, ranked 13th in world cup competition, expressed frustration that he could not find the speed on the track and entered the day in 13th. On board the original Night Train with Cunningham are Justin Olsen, Dallas Robinson and of course, Johnny Quinn—now famous for busting out of his Sochi room after a locked door trapped him inside. USA-2 managed to move up one spot today to finish the competition in 12th.

What happened: A 48-degree Fahrenheit sunny afternoon, the warmest bobsled conditions since Calgary 1988, created somewhat soft ice. It was also the first daytime race for bobsled in Sochi. But none of that took away from the competition or drama.

After dominating the two-man, this was not a cakewalk for Zubkov today. His Russia-1 team of Dmitry Trunenkov, Alexey Negodaylo, and Alexey Voevoda had their slowest run of the competition in the final run. But it was just enough to hang on and give the host country its first-ever four-man bobsled gold medal in a time of 3:40.60.

Lativa-1 pilot Oskars Melbardis and his push team of Arvis Vilkaste, Daumants Dreiskens, and Janis Strenga kept the pressure on Zubkov and Russia. Consistently fast starts gave them an edge in each run, and Melbardis drove well, reaching speeds of 85.4 mph and finishing in second with consistent runs of 55.10, 55.13, 55.15, and 55.31(total of 3:40.69) propelled Latvia to its first Olympic bobsled medal.

Russia-2, piloted by Alexander Kasjanov, jumped two places today and challenged USA-1 for the bronze, finishing with a total time of 3:41.02.

John Jackson, piloting Great Britain-1, turned out to be one of the surprises of the field. Coming off an Achilles tendon injury last July, Jackson had Great Britain-1 getting better and better as the competition progressed, finishing in fifth place, ahead of both German sleds. Great Britain-1’s final run time of 55.26 was second fastest in the field.

Maximilian Arndt in Germany-1 started the day in third by the narrowest of margins. Slow start times (4.89 being the worst) doomed Arndt, who also had some driving struggles on both runs today.  In his first Olympics, the World Cup top-ranked driver finished the day in a disappointing sixth place

Switzerland-1’s Beat Hefti, who won silver in the two-man, struggles comparatively in the four-man. Hefti did run pretty consistently and finished in eighth ahead of Canada-2, the top finisher for Canada in Sochi.

Canada-3 driver Justin Kripps returned to the track today after his sled went airborne yesterday and crashed in the second run. He safely completed run three cleanly, but did not qualify for the final 20 competing in the final run.

Quote:  “We came here to win a medal and we did just that,” Holcomb said. “It was a tough race. It wasn’t easy. We kind of knew Zubkov was going to be fast and really hard to beat and the Latvians had a great day today and pulled away, but to come away with a bronze medal, we’re pretty happy with it. It was a tight race and we’re pretty satisfied.” — Source (NBC)

Full Results

About Cynthia Hobgood

Washington, DC-based digital communications professional, independent writer, and photographer. Recovering full-time sports journalist.// An equal opportunity sports fanatic, I have a soft spot in my heart for Winter games after covering Salt Lake City 2002. I had no idea what I was getting myself into being a credentialed journalist at the Olympics. But it was surely a highlight of my career, involving a lot of writing, countless events, practically no sleep, and ending with pneumonia two weeks later. Soon after I transitioned to part-time sports coverage while in grad school and have focused a bit more on digital communications in recent years, while still dabbling in some independent sports coverage, including women's soccer. //Find me on Twitter: @hobwriter
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