Spills force bobsleigh withdrawals

Just a handful of two-man pilots are sure bets to complete the track without crashing

Whistler’s crash-plagued sliding track this morning scuttled the Olympic dreams of gold-medal bobsled favourite Beat Hefti of Switzerland, whose failure to complete two training runs prior to competition in the wake of a bad spill Wednesday night forced him to withdraw.

That Hefti, who is reigning World Cup champion in the sport, will not race due to a crash raises more questions about the Whistler Sliding Centre track, where Hefti’s Swiss teammate, two-man pilot Daniel Schmid, suffered yet another ugly rollover this morning.

Schmid now appears to be fine and the FIBT last night provided more training time in light of the crashes (though the number of spills here is in keeping with training periods elsewhere—at the Park City track during the Salt Lake City games in 2002, 17 training runs ended in crashes).

Perhaps only five or six of the pilots are solid bets to complete the track without crashing in the two-man tomorrow and Sunday—the Canadians, the Germans and the Swiss. The others are all iffy, a shockingly small margin thanks, some say, to the track’s difficulty.

And the absence of Hefti certainly doesn’t do any hard to Canadian Lyndon Rush’s gold-medal prospects.

Rush had the best time in the first two-man run on Wednesday, finishing the track with 52.05; he was second in the second run, just behind German pilot Andre Lange, a three-time Olympic gold medalist. Results for today’s training have yet to be posted. Pierre Lueders, a two-time Olympic medalist, placed seventh and 17th.

Such strong training finishes certainly ups the pressure on Rush.

And there are indications some of the Europeans are letting Rush take all the heat of the vanguard.

World champion two-man pilot Ivo Rueegg is said to take his training runs underweight and with unpolished runners. His runs lagged behind Rush’s during training.

We’ll find out if Rush can handle the pressure when the Europeans turn it on during competition this weekend.

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