Canada’s Chris Spring earned a bronze medal in four-man bobsled at a World Cup stop Saturday.
The Calgarian drove the Canada 2 sled to a two-run time of one minute 43.83 seconds for his first World Cup medal.
Spring was joined by a powerful crew that includes Tim Randall of Burlington, Ont., Edmonton’s Adam Rosenke and Ben Coakwell of Saskatoon.
“I knew I had two good runs and that’s what you need against a field like this,” Spring said. “To come away with a bronze medal, especially after last season ... I am going to be smiling for a long time.”
The Canada 2, dubbed the Phoenix, has been reborn from the ashes after the original was destroyed in a horrific crash last January in Altenberg, Germany. The new Canada 2 is built from some of the salvaged parts from that destroyed sled.
Not unlike his sled, Spring also came back strong after suffering severe injuries in the crash. Many thought he would never bobsled again.
“It’s something that’s always on my mind because in this sport there can be a few spills. I don’t want to put anything down to trying to come back after disaster. I just take it as it comes,” Spring said.
Alexander Zubkov of Russia won the gold medal with a time of 1:43.29, beating the Russia 2 sled piloted by Alexander Kasjanov by 0.24 seconds.
The 38-year-old Zubkov has now won four-man gold in three consecutive World cups. The team’s success has been credited to new coach Canadian Pierre Lueders, the 1998 Olympic two-man champion who retired after the 2010 Games.
Olympic bronze medallist Lyndon Rush of Humboldt, Sask., drove the Canada 1 sled to an eighth-place finish in 1:44.24.
Rush had Olympic teammates Lascelles Brown of Calgary in the fold, as well as Jesse Lumsden of Burlington, Cody Sorensen of Ottawa, and Neville Wright of Edmonton.
After winning the silver medal in the two-man on Friday, Rush expected more in the four-man.
“It’s disappointing when you don’t do well, especially on a track you drive well,” Rush said.
Rush suggested the Canadian coaches’ decision to mix up the teams for the two-man event played a role in his disappointing result on Saturday. He said the changes sacrificed the performance of his team, the majority of which competed in the two-man yesterday.
“It’s not only the race. All week my guys had to do extra runs with the other pilots. These guys are high performance machines and I think we pushed OK as a result,” Rush said. “We needed to dominate the push.”
The Canada 3 sled, piloted by rookie Justin Kripps of Summerland, B.C., along with Cody Sorenson of Ottawa, Luke Demetre of New Glasgow, N.S., and Nick Carriere of Rockland, Ont., finished 13th with a time of 1:44.91.
The 25-year-old Kripps was in Lueders’ four-man crew at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
Later Saturday, Canada’s Eric Neilson matched a career-best result with a fifth-place finish in the men’s skeleton World Cup race.
Kelowna’s Neilson was the top Canadian finisher in fifth place after clocking a two-run time of 1:48.39 seconds.
A former University of Victoria volleyball player, Neilson slid to three top finishes in his rookie year, with his best result a fifth-place in Winterberg, Germany last season.
“I’ve started to understand the track a little bit more,” Neilson said. “Hopefully we can keep going up from here. You never know because Europe is pretty tough so we will have to bring our A game.”
Germany’s Frank Rommel broke the Latvian winning streak, claiming gold in 1:47.19. Rommel edged out Latvia’s Martin Dukurs who was 0.21 seconds off the pace. Tomass Dukurs placed claimed bronze in 1:47.64.
Jon Fairbairn of Calgary placed eighth in 1:48.74. Olympic gold medallist Jon Montgomery, of Russell, Man., rounded out the Canadian men’s performance finishing 12th at 1:49.00, in his third race since taking last season off.
“There is not a lot positive from today but a guy will go home, watch the video, try to reflect and take the positive out of it,” Montgomery said. “If you keep dwelling on the negatives, you are only going to build a deeper hole to climb out of.”
The 33-year-old took last season off to test and fine-tune a sled prototype developed for him by Calgary’s Standen’s Ltd, an auto parts and tools manufacturer. Tired of seeing technology triumph on the track, Montgomery put his efforts into building a better sled.
With an eye on defending his Olympic title in 2014, Montgomery returned to the World Cup circuit this season with a Standen sled prototype. So far the sled has resulted in lacklustre 14th and 12th place finishes in the first two World Cup races.
“I just have to do whatever I can to realize some incremental gains because right now I am not realizing them. I can’t just sit and wait for someone to bring me something and hope it works. I think that is the point,” Montgomery said.