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Tough night for bobsleigh teams

21 February 2010

Australia’s two two-man bobsleigh teams have had the toughest night of their careers as the Vancouver 2010 Olympic competition began at the Whistler Sliding Centre.

Chris Spring, piloting AUS-1 with Duncan Harvey as his crewman, had a couple of glitches on his first run, but nothing compared to how his second unfolded.

Somehow – and it remains a mystery to Spring that he concedes he may never fully understand – the sled drifted sideways before it had even cleared the first curve.

The fact that the Darwin-born, Calgary-based driver managed to keep his vehicle upright and complete the run was something of a minor miracle.

Unfortunately the outcome for team-mates Jeremy Rolleston and Duncan Pugh, in AUS-2, was much worse.

In something of a freak occurrence, Rolleston caught his foot in his steering mechanism as he climbed into the sled at the start of his first run, and was forced to firstly extricate himself and then reach down into the front of the sled to find the D-ring so he could steer.

He had only just secured it when the sled tipped over, in curve four (of 16), leaving Rolleston and Pugh no option but to tuck themselves in as tightly as possible while the overturned craft slid down the remainder of the course.

Fortunately both survived the wild ride relatively unscathed, although they will be kept under observation by team medical staff.

“You have two D-rings that you use to steer and my foot got stuck in one, and that’s why I came back up, to free my foot,” Rolleston explained.

“At the same time we have two pieces of elastic which hold the rings to stop them crossing over or banging together and one of them broke.

“To have two freakish things like that happen at the same time, it’s just devastating.

“It’s important to say that it’s no-one’s fault. I like this track, in fact it’s become one of my favourite tracks,” the dual-Olympian added.

“Nothing like that has ever happened to me in 10 years of bobsleigh. How many hundreds of times have I loaded into a sled and it’s never happened?” the 37-year-old Sydneysider mused.

Spring was just as perplexed as to what went wrong for him.

“I was looking at moving into the top 20 with a solid second run and then I pull that out in the first corner!

“Here is was thinking (curve) 13 and also four were the problem spots for me, and here I show I don’t even need a corner to get into trouble,” the exasperated 25-year-old exclaimed.

“Hopefully tomorrow I put down a good run, no matter what the time, and I can enjoy the experience,” Spring added.

Lyndon Rush, piloting Canada’s number one sled which had been the most impressive in training, also felt the unforgiving nature of the track as he flipped late in his run, as did Briton John Jackson.

Meanwhile Torino 2006 gold medallist Andre Lange, in the number one German sled, has the halfway lead by 11-hundredths-of-a-second from team-mate Thomas Florschuetz. The top Russian, American and Swiss sleds round out the top five after two of the four runs.

Spring and Harvey will complete the competition tomorrow (Sunday in Vancouver), however as Rolleston and Pugh didn’t cross the finish line, their two-man campaign has come to a premature end.

Rolleston admits it might take him some time to recover from the disappointment.

“But I have pride in knowing that I’ve been to two Olympics and I’m right there in the top 15 in the world, as you could see from my practice times,” he said.

Murray Brust
AOC - Whistler

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