Olympics Roundup

Germany speeds ahead of the curves

American Ashley Caldwell got enough hang time to finish 12th and move on to the finals of the women’s aerials. American Ashley Caldwell got enough hang time to finish 12th and move on to the finals of the women’s aerials. (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Associated Press / February 21, 2010

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This beastly track might be tamed yet.

If someone’s going to do it, Andre Lange is the man.

Germany’s ultimate driving machine, Lange was leading last night at the midway point of the men’s two-man bobsled competition, leaving him two trips down the treacherous Whistler Sliding Centre track from winning his fourth Olympic gold medal in four races.

The first night of bobsled competition included four crashes - one involving Canada’s top team - and a few more heart-skipping moments as drivers struggled to maneuver safely through the menacing 16-curve maze of banking rights and lefts at speeds over 90 miles per hour.

The world’s fastest track can rear up and bite even the best drivers.

Lange is biting back.

He finished his two heats in 1 minute 43.31 seconds. Germany-2, piloted by Thomas Florschuetz (1:43.42) is in second, and Russia-1, with Alexsandr Zubkov (1:43.81) at the controls is third.

American Steve Holcomb is fourth, a remarkable achievement after nearly crashing in his first run. After getting a nice push courtesy of brakeman Curt Tomasevicz, USA-1 banged into several walls and skidded sideways, but Holcomb’s driving skills kept his $60,000 loaner from flipping.

Three sleds crashed in the first heat as crews from Liechtenstein, Britain, and Australia all toppled. The accident involving Great Britain-1 was the scariest.

Driver John Jackson lost control in the 11th curve, tumbling the sled and losing brakeman Dan Money in the process. Money slid behind his ride while Jackson crawled into the nose of his sled and held on until it came to a stop near the finish line.

Jackson emerged from the cockpit and peeled off his bodysuit to reveal two nasty scrapes under his shoulder blades, flesh wounds caused by being gouged by Money’s spiked shoes and being dragged along the ice on his back. He looked as if he been attacked by a grizzly bear.

In the second heat, Canada’s Lyndon Rush, who has had more practice on this course than anyone in the field, couldn’t get Canada-1 through the track’s notorious “50-50’’ curve, a nasty section nicknamed by Holcomb because of the odds of escaping it without wrecking.

Both Rush and brakeman Lascelles Brown walked away uninjured, but their crash underscored the track’s technical difficulty.

Olympic officials have pushed back the start of today’s final rounds of two-man bobsledding because of warm weather. Originally scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m., the third heat of the four-man event is set to begin at 7.

At 16, Ashley Caldwell might be too young to know any better. At 37, Jacqui Cooper might be too old to worry anymore.

The American kid who’s barely starting and the Aussie veteran who wrote the book each advanced yesterday to the finals of the women’s aerials, a head-over-heels adventure where the next concussion, shattered foot, or torn-up knee is always lurking around some corner.

Cooper finished 11th, and Caldwell got the 12th and final spot on a day when Americans Emily Cook of Belmont, Mass., and Lacy Schnoor also advanced - marking the first time the US has put a woman in the Olympic finals since 1998.

A member of America’s developmental Elite Air Program, Caldwell started showing some Olympic promise late last year, then suddenly found herself on the Olympic team.

“Making it feels like every other experience I’ve been talking about, except 10 times better,’’ Caldwell said. “It’s hard to put into words how excited I am.’’

Jason Smith came out of retirement for one final curling run with buddy John Shuster and his US teammates. After the Olympics, Smith plans to walk away from the ice again - perhaps for good.

“I don’t believe a word he says,’’ teammate John Benton said.

If this is indeed it for Smith, he’s going out with some brilliant shot-making. The US men made it two straight wins with an 8-7, extra-end victory over Sweden, and they have Smith’s sure hand to thank.

“It’s not like I took 10 years off or something,’’ Smith said.

Shuster returned to the lineup after being benched for the team’s win over France Friday following an 0-4 start.

But Smith threw the final rock for the second straight game and was nearly perfect.

He scored a go-ahead deuce in the ninth and the winner in the 11th.

The Canadian men’s curlers rallied to beat top rival Britain, 7-6, to stay unbeaten at the Olympics.

Scottish skip David Murdoch’s last stone fell short, giving the Canadians a deuce and sending the home crowd into a frenzy.

Skip Kevin Martin’s team (6-0) ended a four-game losing streak to the reigning world champion Brits (3-3), who were playing their second game of the day after beating China in a shortened morning contest.