Just a Bad Day for U.S. Bobsleds
By Christine Brennan and Tony Kornheiser
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, February 28, 1994; Page C8
LILLEHAMMER, Norway, Feb. 27 To say it was a bad day for the U.S. bobsled team would be an understatement.
Brian Shimer, driver of USA-2, was disqualified from today's four-man competition because the bobsled's runners were too warm, the first time in Olympic history that a team has been disqualified for such a thing.
Meanwhile, the other U.S. sled, USA-1, driven by Randy Will, had the ignominious distinction of finishing behind the Jamaican bobsled team, the extremely popular but highly unskilled group that crash-landed into the Games just six years ago.
Will's problem, it turns out, also had to do with the runners. He used the wrong kind. He had warm-weather runners on his sled, he said, because he didn't have the $5,000 necessary to buy the right kind of runners.
Will, in his final Olympic race, finished 15th, one-hundredth of a second behind the Jamaicans.
Germany-2, driven by Harald Czudaj, won the gold medal over Switzerland's Gustav Weder, while Wolfgang Hoppe of Germany-1 won the bronze on the Hunderfossen track.
"It's unfortunate that we didn't have the right runners for the track," said Chris Coleman, Will's brakeman. "The U.S. has awesome athletes on this team, and basically the only difference when you come down to it is the equipment."
Shimer and his team had the right runners, but heated them up too much prior to the race.
The warmer the runners, the faster the sled. According to Olympic rules, runners are checked one hour before race time and the temperature is updated every 10 minutes.
If a sled's runners are not within 4 degrees Celsius of a test runner, the sled is disqualified.
The test runner was minus 9.5 degrees Celsius, and one of USA-2's runners was minus 4.6, .9 of a degree beyond the allowable, said David Kurtz, the U.S. team leader. Two of the other three runners also were too warm.
"It's unfortunate," Kurtz said. "I know our engineers thought the temperatures were within the range. It's my responsibility clearly to make sure it's all within the rules. It's a risk. It's like Mitch Williams trying to put a fastball by Joe Carter in the last game of the World Series.
"We definitely took on some risk and pressed the limits as far as we could go to make sure that [Shimer] had the full opportunity to do his best here at the Games."
Kurtz said the support staff for the U.S. team tested the temperature not only with their own temperature gauge, but also with Switzerland's gauge, and found no problem.
Shimer said he had nothing to do with the temperature controversy and never had been thrown out of a race in his nine-year career.
"It was completely out of my hands," he said. "I had no idea what was taking place. What's been great about the Bo-Dyn project is that they take care of the sleds and runners, and I come to the line and race the sled. ... I didn't have anything to do with the runners last night or the taking of the temperature."
Even before the disqualification, Shimer, the 1993 world championship bronze medalist, was not going to win a medal. After Saturday's first two runs, he was in 11th place, well out of contention.
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