Germany 2 Wins Four-Man; U.S. Just Misses Medal
By John Kekis
Saturday, February 21, 1998; 4:17 a.m. EST
NAGANO The clock told the sad story, and Brian Shimer hung his head, an also-ran again.
Four years after he became the only man in Olympic history to get disqualified from a bobsled race because of sled runners that were warmer than the rules allow, Shimer came oh-so-close to that elusive bobsled medal.
He finished fourth Saturday in USA 1, just two-hundredths of a second behind France and Britain, who tied for the bronze.
Christoph Langen easily won gold in Germany 2. Langen, who sat out last year with a torn Achilles' tendon, dominated the competition from the start Friday and finished the three heats in 2 minutes, 39.41 seconds.
Marcel Rohner won silver in Switzerland 1 in 2:40.01. Sean Olsson in Britain 1 and Bruno Mingeon each finished in 2:40.06.
Shimer was attempting to break the 42-year Olympic medal drought for the United States in a sport it once dominated. It hasn't won an Olympic bobsled medal since Arthur Tyler captured the four-man bronze at Cortina, Italy in 1956.
Friday's second run was canceled because of a steady rain and temperatures in the mid-30s. That transformed the race into a three-heat contest, and it turned into another disappointment for Shimer, of Naples, Fla., who was competing in his fourth Olympics.
Tied for third with Olsson of Britain and Christian Reich of Switzerland entering the final run, Shimer failed at the bottom of the tricky 15-turn Spiral course.
With musclemen Chip Minton and Randy Jones yelling and pushing with their considerable might, Shimer, who began the day in fourth, picked up valuable time at the start. His shiny Bo-Dyn sled, painted black with blue flames across its bow, had the fastest start of the final run and the fastest overall time until the final four turns.
Somewhere, somehow, he just wasn't good enough at the helm to bring home a medal. And when Shimer crossed the finish line and looked up, Mingeon and his crew were yelling and screaming, for France had won its first Olympic bobsled medal.
Olsson, too, was ecstatic, for Britain had its first medal of these Olympics, and first bobsled medal since Anthony Nash won gold in the two-man in 1964 at Innsbruck.
The ending offered sweet redemption for Langen. He had won bronze in two-man at Albertville, then was disappointed four years ago when he failed to qualify for the German Olympic team.
Langen calls his reddish-orange sled Muckl, in German a term of endearment usually reserved for loved ones. And Muckl didn't let him down this time. No other sled was even close to being its equal. Langen was Shimer's equal at the top and was fastest when it counted most.
As usual, driving won the race, and Langen learned the crucial subtleties of the sport, especially the deft touch needed to steer an 1,800-pound bobsled down a chute of ice at over 80 mph, from one of the best Wolfgang Hoppe, the most decorated bobsled driver in history.
As usual, the disappointment was spread around.
Jim Herberich, of Winchester, Mass., in USA 2, was 12th in 2:41.27, in his first Olympic four-man race. Like most of the field, he had trouble in the final five turns, especially coming out of Turn 12, where he bounced off the wall more than once. That cost him precious time in a sport that doesn't allow for such mistakes.
The defending gold medalist, 35-year-old Harald Czudaj, also had difficulties on each run and finished eighth in Germany 1, nearly a second behind Langen.
© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press
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