Sochi 2014: Bobsleigh could make it best Games for GB

Great Britain are seventh, but remain an outside chance for a medal, halfway through a four-man bobsleigh competition that Russia lead.

GB captain John Jackson, Scot Stuart Benson, Bruce Tasker and Joel Fearon hurtle down the track. Picture: Reuters
GB captain John Jackson, Scot Stuart Benson, Bruce Tasker and Joel Fearon hurtle down the track. Picture: Reuters

Russian pilot Alexander Zubkov, 39, who won two-man gold last week, holds a 0.04-second lead over Latvia in second. GBR 1, driven by John Jackson and with Scotland’s Stuart Benson also on board, finished their first two runs in a combined time of one minute 50.53 seconds, 0.18 secs off Germany in third. Lamin Deen’s GBR 2 team are joint-18th ahead of the final two runs today. If Jackson’s men can get themselves on the podium it would be Great Britain’s best ever Winter Olympics result, surpassing 1924 in Chamonix.

Zubkov will take the slenderest of leads into the final two heats as the Russian bids for a golden finale to the Games today.

The 39-year-old is ahead of Latvia’s Oskars Melbardis by four hundredths of a second with German Maximilian Arndt in bronze position, 0.16 behind the leader.

Zubkov set the pace with a fastest first run of 54.82 but Melbardis, fifth after the first leg, climbed to second with the quickest second run of 55.13. The Latvian won the test event at this track last year.

American Steve Holcomb, the 2010 Vancouver champion who has been receiving intensive treatment on a calf injury, is still well in contention, one hundredth of a second out of the medals in fourth place.

The Olympic bobsleigh two-man and four-man double was last achieved by Germany’s Andre Lange in 2006. The second run was briefly delayed after Canadian Justin Kripps, in eighth place after the first leg, tipped over at a corner with his sled skidding around several turns on its side before coming to a rest. Kripps, Jesse Lumsden, Cody Sorensen and Ben Coakwell gingerly got to their feet and walked away apparently unharmed, the quartet given a rousing reception by the crowd.

Meanwhile, Lizzy Yarnold has backed Elise Christie to rebound from her Olympic disappointments and follow her lead in four years time. Yarnold, who won skeleton gold in Sochi last week, was watching in the stands as short track speed skater Christie was disqualified for the third time. And she admitted the 23-year old’s nightmare Games couldn’t have contrasted more with her fortnight to remember.

“Elise is a good friend and I know how passionate and determined she is as an athlete,” said Yarnold.

“I was there to support her, everyone was behind her and now feeling for her after what happened. It was difficult for the whole team to watch, she’s had a difficult time at these Olympics but as a team we’ve had so much success. We’ll always support her.”

Yarnold – who will carry the British flag at tonight’s closing ceremony – admits life has been a whirlwind since she dominated her rivals to win Britain’s fourth consecutive skeleton medal, beating the field by nearly a second. She returned back home for a round of television interviews and admitted she couldn’t believe her new found fame or Team GB’s success in Sochi. “A little girl came over to me and said, ‘excuse me, are you the Olympian Lizzy?’ It was beautiful and after that there were families and children asking to have their picture with me,” she added.

“That moment where someone says that they did watch your event and were passionate, and this girl who I might inspire, it was amazing for me. So it has been an awesome week. It has been the best Games of my life. I won the gold medal and now it has been topped off with being flag bearer.”

Marit Bjoergen wrote herself into the history books as Norway completed a clean sweep of medals in the Winter Olympics women’s 30km cross-country. The 33-year-old claimed her third gold medal of the Sochi Games and the sixth of her career to make her the joint most decorated female Winter Olympian in history, matching the six golds won by speed skater Lidia Skoblikova (USSR) and cross-country skier Lyubov Yegorova (Russia).

Austrian Mario Matt also moved into the history books as he became the oldest alpine skier to win an Olympic gold medal, triumphing in the men’s slalom. Matt, 34 years and 319 days old, overtook the record previously held by Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt, who was 34 years and 169 days when he triumphed in the men’s super G at the Turin Games in 2006.

Favourite Marcel Hirscher of Austria took silver and Norwegian Henrik Kristoffersen bronze after several contenders, including Alexis Pinturault, Felix Neuruether and Ted Ligety, crashed out.