SOCHI, Russia – Canada suffered a crash in the opening night of four-man Olympic bobsleigh that had a nation holding its breath. Thankfully, all four athletes walked away without need for major medical attention.
The Canada-3 sled piloted by Justin Kripps, pushed by Jesse Lumsden, Cody Sorensen along with brakeman Ben Coakwell was on its second and final run of the night chasing a fast time in a stellar field of quick sleds.
On corner 14, the sled flipped to its side, dragging the four men along the ice at an initial speed well over 100 kilometres per hour, with their helmets providing protection as their heads glided along the icy track.
The sled crossed the finish line in that terrifying position and stopped before the four could get out.
The sight of the Canadians emerging from the sled relatively unscathed was a relief to onlookers. The vast European crowd broke into applause with shouts of “Canada” from the railings and stands.
As outpouring of support and goodwill came from all over the world via Twitter, Sorensen took to his own account and assured fans that the four are “doing well.”
The three Canadian sleds had been realigned prior to the race with Lumsden, Sorensen and Coakwell joining Kripps to bolster the country’s chance at an Olympic medal. Kripps proved himself to be the best driver at the Sanki track during the two-man runs earlier this week.
Canada-3 was in eighth place going into Run 2 but only 0.11 seconds behind fourth. The second run if completed upright, under reverse order for the leaders, would’ve seen the sled in the leaderbox at least momentarily.
Canada-2 and Canada-1 sits in 10th and 14th places respectively going into Run 3 on Sunday. Having lost significant time, Canada-3 trails the field.
Tom De La Hunty, bobsleigh head coach, said he doesn’t “anticipate any problems” with the health of the four men and that they had seen a doctor following the crash. There is a possibility of using alternates on Sunday if necessary.
The coach elaborated on the accident saying, “I know exactly what happened. They got into corner 14 too early. The nose of the sled got pushed away as it’s angling away from the corner, the momentum going into the corner was too much and it just rolled straight into the corner.”
“It’s just one of those things. You come out of corner 11 just slightly wrong. You tap on the left hand side and it pushes you across to the 14.”