Skip to main content

Alexander Kopacz and Justin Kripps of Canada and Francesco Friedrich and Thorsten Margis of Germany celebrate in Pyeongchang on Feb. 19, 2018.

ARND WIEGMANN/REUTERS

Canadian bobsled pilot Justin Kripps thought it was awfully sporting of the Germans to be rushing towards him in celebration at the conclusion of their two-man race.

Turns out both teams had reason to be ecstatic.

Kripps and Germany's Francesco Friedrich produced a stunning tie for gold at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics on Monday, equalling each other's combined four-run time of three minutes 16.86 seconds.

Story continues below advertisement

With chaos all around them in the finish area, Kripps and brakeman Alex Kopacz didn't initially realize they had matched Friedrich and Thorsten Margis down to the hundredth of a second.

"I managed to actually see the clock that said No. 1 ... just so excited and everybody started mobbing into the track," said Kripps of Summerland, B.C. "I saw the Germans and they were super excited, too. I was like, 'Man, that's nice. They're really excited that we won.' We're all good friends. Once the mob kind of dispersed a little bit, Thorsten was giving me a hug, he was in my ear and he was like, 'It was three-hundredths and two and then we tied.' I was like, 'We tied?'

"It's insane. Amazing."

Kopacz was also confused.

"It wasn't until a couple minutes later in the change room I asked the German guys again, 'So, I'm not understanding, did we win?"' said the native of London, Ont. "They're like, 'Yea, but we tied.'

"What are the odds?"

For a bobsled pilot wearing the red Maple Leaf, not as long as you might think.

Story continues below advertisement

Kripps joins Pierre Lueders, who took gold at the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan — also in a tie — as the only Canadians to top an Olympic podium in two-man.

Lueders also won two-man silver at the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy, for the country's other medal in the discipline.

The five-time Olympian, who coaches the South Korean team and was at the track Monday, tutored Kripps in the fundamentals of piloting after he retired to become Canada's development coach following the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C.

"He spent two years teaching me how to drive," said Kripps. "He's a legend in the sport. He's one of the best of all-time.

"Getting that base to start really allowed me to be where I am right now."

Latvia's Oskars Melbardis and Janis Strenga won bronze in 3:16.91.

Story continues below advertisement

Hamilton's Nick Poloniato and brakeman Jesse Lumsden — the former CFL running back from Burlington, Ont. — wound up in seventh in 3:17.74. Australian-born Chris Spring of Priddis, Alta., and Lascelles Brown of Calgary were 10th in 3:18.24.

Kripps said having to share the spotlight with the Germans wasn't in any way weird, but instead a special moment.

"It's two other guys that are as happy as you are," he said. "You've just became Olympic champions. The bobsled community's really tight-knit.

"They're genuinely happy for us, and we're happy for them."

Kripps sat second after Sunday's first two heats, but jumped into first on his third trip down the track with a time of 49.09 seconds.

He headed into the fourth and final run 0.06 seconds up on Friedrich, who set a track record of 48.96 seconds in the third heat to leap from fifth to second.

Story continues below advertisement

Kripps was just off the German's pace early in the fourth run, but quickly picked up speed and briefly went ahead before falling off ever so slightly to cross the line in a deadlock.

"It was crazy," Friedrich said. "I saw (Kripps) was three-hundredths in front and I thought, 'Tie or silver.'

"It was a tie and I am so happy. "

Canadian bobsled and skeleton high-performance director Chris Le Bihan said Kripps was in a zone for the entire race.

"Justin was an absolute assassin," Le Bihan said. "He nailed it every heat. Consistency like that wins.

"The biggest stage on the planet, the biggest event in the world ... to tie is crazy."

A brakeman for Lueders in four-man in 2010, Kripps raced to a sixth-place showing in his Olympic debut as a two-man pilot in Sochi four years ago.

That surprising result prompted Canadian officials to shuffle the setup for the four and give him some of the program's better pushers — a last-minute switch that left some teammates bewildered.

But the country's hopes for a podium didn't last long after Kripps was involved in an ugly crash late in the second heat and wound up last.

Coming off a silver at the 2017 world championships in the two-man, Kripps had a banner World Cup campaign heading into South Korea. The 31-year-old Hawaii-born Canadian won a gold, three silvers and a bronze to secure the overall title, never finishing lower than fourth in the circuit's eight races.

He was also just outside the top-3 in the four-man standings, grabbing second twice and fourth on three other occasions, to claim the combined two- and four-man World Cup crown.

"It's the culmination of a lot of work," Kripps said. "(Lueders) tied for a gold medal 20 years ago, and eight years ago he taught me how to drive a bobsled.

"Now here we are tying for a gold medal, just can't believe it."

A Russian medalist is suspected of doping at the Pyeongchang Olympic Games, which could thwart Russia's attempts to emerge from a drug-cheating scandal Reuters
Report an error
Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons or for abuse. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter