2010 Winter Olympics: Crashes change men's bobsledding competition

Published: Friday, Feb. 19 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

WHISTLER, British Columbia — Crashes at the Whistler Sliding Centre continue to change the face of the competition, with two of three Swiss entries in the two-man bobsled event scratched because of injuries to athletes.

A nasty flip on Wednesday forced Switzerland's Beat Hefti, the top-ranked driver, to withdraw from competition Friday because of a concussion. His countrymen, Daniel Schmid and Juerg Egger, also withdrew after a crash Friday that left Egger with "a cervical spine injury," according to a team doctor.

"He can walk," said Dr. Christian Schlegel. "He has no motor function disruption."

Latvian driver Janis Minins, considered a medal favorite in the four-man event, had to withdraw Thursday from two-man competition after undergoing an emergency appendectomy. He is trying to return for the second event, which begins Feb. 26.

Into this chaos comes Mike Kohn, pilot of USA-3, who has been given the unenviable task of having a week to learn to drive the world's fastest track without making it a crash course.

"It's like hitting a golf ball," said Kohn, 37. "Sometimes if you just walk up and hit the ball, it works for you."

Thursday night, the U.S. federation selected Nick Cunningham, a member of Kohn's four-man team, to be his pusher in this event.

Kohn will be joined by America's top driver and reigning four-man world champion, Steve Holcomb, who will have Curt Tomasevicz, his reliable engine behind him. USA-2 pilot John Napier will partner with Steve Langton.

A gold medal in this event, considered unlikely, would snap a 62-year drought, the longest of any nation.

"If we do get it, it will be a huge accomplishment," said Holcomb. "I don't think anybody's going to hate us if we don't win."

Easily the favorite in the race is three-time gold medalist Andre Lange of Germany, who is looking to become the most decorated bobsled driver with a win here or in the four-man event. He would overtake Bernhard Germeshausen of Germany, who won three gold medals and one silver in 1976 and 1980.

Kohn has a bronze medal from the 2002 Olympics, where he was a pusher on the sled driven by Brian Shimer, now the men's coach. He was an alternate in 2006.

Try out the new DeseretNews.com design!
try beta learn more
Get The Deseret News Everywhere