Imago

Germans under fire

Germans under fire
By Reuters

06/02/2006 at 22:46Updated

Germany's supremacy in the men's Olympic bobsleigh could be contested at the Turin Games with competitors from several nations threatening to take over at the top.

At the previous Olympics in Salt Lake City, Germany kept an iron grip on a discipline often described as Formula One on ice, winning gold in both the two-and four-man events, and the United States won the women's inaugural competition.

The picture has changed since, however, with the Germans looking vulnerable for a change.

Christoph Langen, who drove his Germany I sled to gold in the two-man event four years ago and was widely regarded as the finest driver in bobsleigh history, has now retired.

Andre Lange, who had steered his Germany II four-man sled to gold at the Salt Lake City Games, is still around and hungry for more but will face resolute opposition.

Russia's Alexandr Zoubkov, who took the World Cup four-man title last month, will be dangerous in both events. The 31-year-old has been extremely consistent this season, never placing lower than fifth.

LONG DROUGHT

Canada's Pierre Lueders, the two-man World Cup champion, has plenty of experience and is another to watch.

Todd Hays, who had to settle for two-man silver on home ice four years ago, will be determined to go one better and end a long drought by handing the United States their first Olympic men's bobsleigh gold since 1948.

If they were to be upset in men's action, Germany could take consolation in the women's competition courtesy of Sandra Kiriasis.

A silver medallist in 2002 as Prokoff, she dominated on the World Cup circuit this winter with four victories out of seven events.

Brakewoman Vonetta Flowers and driver Jill Bakken won the inaugural title four years ago, giving the United States their first Olympic title on the bob track for 54 years.

Flowers, who became the first black competitor to win a gold medal in the history of the Winter Olympics, will be among the favourites in Turin with a new driver in Jean Prahm.

The tradition of exotic competitors inaugurated by the saga of the Jamaican bob at the 1988 Olympics in Calgary -- later immortalised in the film Cool Runnings -- lives on with a host of attractions.

Among them is Monaco's Ivory Coast-born competitor Charles Oula, who was introduced to the sport by former Olympian Prince Albert, now the ruler of the principality.

Bobsleigh action at the Cesana track, where sleds can hurtle at about 130 kph, starts on February 18 and runs until February 25.

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