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Keown: Fourth not the place to be

USA's Hays 5th after first 2 bobsled runs

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Sunday, February 17, 2002
Langen drives German sled to gold; Hays fourth

Associated Press

PARK CITY, Utah -- Christoph Langen of Germany won the gold medal in two-man bobsled on Sunday, coming from behind on the final turns to edge Christian Reich of Switzerland.

Christoph Langen
Germany driver Christoph Langen and brakeman Markus Zimmermann celebrate after realizing they won the gold.

Two-time World Cup champion Martin Annen, also of Switzerland, won the bronze, beating American Todd Hays by only .03 of a second. Brian Shimer of the United States finished ninth in his fifth and final Olympics.

Langen finished the four runs in 3 minutes, 10.11 seconds, .09 ahead of Reich. Reich had a time of 3:10.20, and Annen finished in 3:10.62.

Hays began the day in fifth place and stormed past defending Olympic champion Pierre Lueders of Canada on the final two runs as he sought to end the United States' 46-year Olympic medal drought in the sport.

It's the third time since the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics that the U.S. has finished fourth in an Olympic bobsled race.

"I don't know if there's a worse place in sports than fourth place in the Olympics," Hays said. "It's going to sting for a long time."

Only Langen had a faster time than Hays on the fourth run, but Annen and brakeman Beat Hefti broke the track start record with a time of 4.79 seconds and held off the Americans.

"I was pretty shocked that Annen came back the way he did," Hays said. "When I see him, I'm going to shake his hand and tell him he deserves a medal because he does."

Drama built as the day wore on and the capacity crowd of nearly 15,000 waited anxiously. Langen trailed Reich by .01 entering the third run, and when Reich and brakeman Steve Anderhub set a track record, Langen's goal of reaching gold in his final Olympics seemed to be fading.

The Germans then rallied with a track record of their own, and the top two sleds entered the final run in a dead heat.

Reich, distraught after finishing fourth at Nagano four years ago, had a time of 42.73 seconds on the final run, and that seemed safe as Langen and brakeman Markus Zimmerman roared toward the finish line trailing.

Langen, a small American flag painted on back of his black helmet and a German flag on the front, then displayed the skills that have made him the best driver in the world.

Despite the slowest starts of top six sleds and a substitute partner -- his normal brakeman, 6-foot-7, 250-pound Marco Jacobs injured a hamstring while training in Arizona last month -- Langen made up time on the final four turns to finally get Olympic gold in the two-man after winning the bronze in 1994 and 1992.