Pyeongchang, South Korea – Justin Kripps and Francesco Friedrich stood side-by-side in celebration, the Canadian and German flags overlapping one another.
Even then, they couldn’t be separated as the closest bobsled race in Olympic history left two countries jumping for joy.
Canada and Germany will share the two-man gold medal from the Pyeongchang Games after Kripps and Friedrich made their way down nearly four miles of ice in exactly the same time. Kripps and brakeman Alexander Kopacz gave Canada its second gold in a two-man event, while Friedrich and Thorsten Margis gave Germany its fourth two-man win in the last five Olympics.
The winning time when everything was done Monday: 3 minutes, 16.86 seconds.
Latvia got bronze, with Oskars Melbardis and Janis Strenga finishing 0.05 seconds back to complete the closest three-sled finish in Olympic history.
It was the third time the top two sleds have finished tied in an Olympic two-man race. Canada and Italy shared gold in 1998, and Italy got the gold over West Germany in 1968, even though both sleds had the same time.
The Olympics then utilized a fastest-heat tiebreaker, which gave the Italians the nod. Had that rule still been in play, Friedrich and Margis would have won this time – after setting a start record Sunday and a track record Monday.
Sharing the podium was good enough.
Nico Walther and Christian Poser of Germany, the leaders after Sunday’s first two runs, were fourth – just 0.20 seconds back. Johannes Lochner and Christopher Weber, also from Germany, were fifth in 3:17.14.
“This is what makes the sport amazing,” U.S. bobsledder Nick Cunningham said. “Anyone can win on any given day.”
Or on this day, two different anyones.
Based on their World Cup two-man results this season, the logjam going into the finale wasn’t a total shock.
Kripps finished no lower than fourth in every two-man race all year and was the World Cup overall champion. Friedrich was first or second in each of his last five races. Lochner ended the regular season by winning consecutive medals. Walther was one of only two pilots with multiple two-man victories this season. The surprise was Melbardis, who medaled in only two of his most recent 17 World Cup two-man events.
But he loves the Olympics; Latvia has two bobsled medals in its history, and he’s driven both – the other being a four-man silver at the 2014 Sochi Games.
Justin Olsen and brakeman Evan Weinstock were the top American sled, placing 14th.
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