Lange double completes German sweep

Lange double completes German sweep
By Reuters

25/02/2006 at 21:31Updated

Andre Lange completed a German sweep of the Olympic bobsleigh titles when he steered his Germany I sled to victory in the four-man competition of the Turin Games on Saturday.

Lange, who had started his campaign by winning the two-man title, became the first driver to take both men's bobsleigh gold medals at the same Winter Olympics since East German Wolfgang Hoppe in 1984.

"I'm speechless, I need time to realise," Lange, who had slapped the top of his helmet with his hand after crossing the finish, said with tears of joy in his eyes.

"There will be a few drinks tonight, believe me."

The 32-year-old and his crew of Rene Hoppe, Kevin Kuske and Martin Putze beat Alexandre Zoubkov's Russia I sled into second place while the Switzerland I quartet led by Martin Annen had to settle for the bronze.

The superpower of the risky sport, Germany also won the women's title here, courtesy of Sandra Kiriasis.

The winner of the last three world four-man titles, Lange defended his crown from the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City with a commanding performance throughout the two-day event.

The East German-born started by setting a track record in Friday's opening heat and also clocked the fastest time in the next two.

Zoubkov, who won silver behind Lange at the last world championships, challenged the German with the best time in the fourth and final run but had to be content with second place, 0.13 second back.


Annen, who had won bronze already in the two-man, was in second position after Friday's heats but dropped a spot to finish third, 0.41 second off the pace.

Germany, more than ever in a class of their own in bobsleigh, have now won the last four Olympic four-man titles.

Lange, who was 10 years old and watching on television when Hoppe, now one of Germany's coaches, won both titles in Sarajevo, becomes the second man with a total three Olympic bobsleigh titles.

He emulates Meinhard Nehmer, now also a German coach, who won both gold medals for East Germany in 1976 in Innsbruck before winning the four-man four years later in Lake Placid.

"Andre has just made bobsleigh history," said Germany head coach Raimund Bethge, who fractured both legs in a training accident here last November and left his rehabilitation clinic a few days before the start of the bobsleigh events.

Lange's four-man triumph had a definite East German flavour, the runners of his sled dating back from the days before German unification.

Pierre Lueders, who had won two-man silver, narrowly missed out on another medal, his Canada I sled ending up fourth.

There was disappointment also for Todd Hays. A four-man specialist, the silver medallist from Salt Lake City had been hoping to present the United States with their first men's Olympic bobsleigh title since 1948.

The 36-year-old, former kickboxer and bull rider from Texas finished seventh and will now retire.