On Fourth Try, Shimer Just Misses Out on Medal
By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 22, 1998; Page D18
Oblivious of the Brits, a coach of the French team hopped around gleefully in nothing but a black floppy hat, black Calvin Klein briefs, black boots and an Olympic Games credential. Periodic shouts of joy from the French athletes provided the background music.
U.S. bobsled driver Brian Shimer, meanwhile, talked quietly in another corner of the finish area, speaking barely above a whisper. Shimer missed partaking in this medal celebration by two-hundredths of a second. In his fourth Olympic Games, Shimer, 35, failed for the fourth time to win a medal, finishing today in fifth place. Because there was a tie for third, there was no fourth-place team.
Shimer "has always had so much misfortune," said Britain pusher Dean Ward. "You can't even blink faster than two-hundredths of a second."
Said Shimer: "Two-hundredths is two minutes if it's for fifth place."
With the conclusion of the two-day event today, Shimer's four-man sled posted a time of 2 minutes 40.08 seconds for three runs conducted today and Friday. Germany driver Christopher Langen led the way to the gold with a combined time of 2:39.41 and the Swiss, with driver Marcel Rohner, captured the silver in 2:40.01.
Britain's Sean Olsson and France's Bruno Mingeon drove their sleds to 2:40.06 finishes.
Shimer said he thought he had led a strong final run, so he was shocked when he saw his time of 53.73-the lowest of the three runs.
"At the bottom as you come over the rise, you blink your eyes and try to focus on the clock," he said. "I saw 73 and all the life left me. With the time we had, I knew we had fallen short."
It was a remarkable defeat for Shimer's sled, which had the fastest time at each of the six track intervals except the last one.
"I thought we had lost it," said Olsson, whose finish gave Britain its only medal of these Olympics. "They must have had a nightmare at the bottom."
For Shimer, each of his Olympic appearances has come with a nightmare or two. In 1988 in Calgary, he was a pusher on a four-man sled that didn't come close to a medal, finishing 16th. In 1992, Shimer and NFL star Herschel Walker blew a chance for a medal with a terrible start, finishing seventh.
In 1994, Shimer's four-man sled became the first in Olympic history to be disqualified because the sled's runners were too warm and thus could have given him an unfair speed advantage. Shimer's two-man sled finished 13th that year.
This Olympics brought the conclusion of a three-month investigation into an abnormal drug test result. Bobsled's international governing body considered suspending Shimer for a high testosterone ratio test, until his representatives and the U.S. federation demonstrated that Shimer had an unusual body chemistry that would skew test results.
Shimer also competed in the two-man event and finished 10th. It was the four-man, however, that he considered his forte and the best chance to break the United States' 42-year medal drought. Shimer also missed an opportunity to gain a 14th medal in these Games for the United States, which would have surpassed the record of 13 set during the 1994 Games in Lillehammer.
"Knowing you got to the bottom and felt it was a pretty good run and still missing it by two-hundredths of a second, yeah, it hurts," Shimer said.
"If it had been a run where I had hit everything [on the course] ... then all of the hurt would have taken place before you got to the bottom."
Shimer said he feared he would be remembered more for the drug controversy that began the Games than anything he achieved once the competition began.
"You hope the dark cloud is gone," Shimer said. "I was hoping coming in here and winning a medal, then things like that just disappear and everybody's happy. There are no excuses. This race was my fault."
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