Onlookers at the Sanki Sliding Center were in for a treat on Saturday, as the first two heats of the four-man bobsled event took place. Earlier in the 2014 Olympics, the American two-man team made headlines, earning the bronze medal and ending a severe podium drought in the event.
After the first two heats on Saturday, the United States looks poised to make a run at the podium once again. This will be crucial for the country due to the extremely close race for the overall medal count:
However, there is some stiff competition at the top of the standings. This event is counted by the hundredths of a second and 12 teams find themselves within a second of the leaders after the first two runs reached their conclusion.
Let's take a look at the top 10 finishers from Saturday's first two heats followed by a recap of the day and what to watch for during the final two runs on Sunday.
|4||United States 1||1:50.36||+0.17|
|7||Great Britain 1||1:50.53||+0.34|
Full results can be viewed on Sochi2014.com.
During the first run, Russia jumped out to an early lead, setting a new track record with a time of 54.82 seconds (Russia 1). That sub-55 second run was a near-flawless performance and really set the stakes high for the remainder of the event.
Two other teams finished with sub-55 second runs as well. Germany 1 and United States 1 recorded times of 54.88 and 54.89 seconds, respectively.
However, the United States team received accolades of its own. Despite finishing in third position after the run, the team set a new start record which made up for any mid-run hiccups.
Hmm, even w/Steve Holcomb's strained calf, USA-1 four-man bobsled team sets start record (4.75). In second place behind GER-1.— Jeff Zillgitt (@JeffZillgitt) February 22, 2014
Both United States 1 and Germany 1 faltered during the second heat. Each recorded a time of 55.47 seconds which moved them down in the rankings to third place and fourth place, respectively.
Russia remained solid with a time of 55.37 seconds in the second run; however, the wavering top teams paved the way for Latvia 1 to creep into second place with a second run of 55.13 seconds—the fastest time of the second heat.
The day did come with a scary moment, as bobsled events are quite dangerous. The Canada-3 sled crashed during its second run on Saturday. The Associated Press delivered this report via ABC News:
Driver Justin Kripps, with three new brakemen in his sled, flipped on one of the curves on the Sanki Sliding Center track Saturday. The bobsled slid through several turns on its side with the team member's helmeted heads digging scarily into the ice. All four were checked by medical personnel as they climbed out of the sled, and none of the men appeared to be injured as they walked up the hill to the finish area.
Thankfully, it appears that no serious injuries were recorded.
What to Watch For
Which of the four top teams is most likely to miss out on the podium?
On Sunday, the third and fourth heats of this event will take place. Heat 3 will begin at 4:30 a.m. ET and Heat 4 will take place at 6 a.m. ET.
Plenty of teams are still in the running for the podium. However, Russia and Germany appear to have the most consistent teams on the track. After Latvia pulled off a blazing second run to get into second position, they are also a team to watch.
Don't sleep on the United States in fourth position. Led by pilot Steven Holcomb who won a bronze medal in the two-man bobsled event, this team has fared very well on the tracks in Sochi.
During an interview with Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, Holcomb expressed his confidence in himself and his team heading into this event:
Having won in 2010 takes the pressure off. We've been there, done that. Once you win a race you have the confidence that you know how to do it. Then it comes more natural. So we know how to do it and what it takes. We need to execute and we'll be right on track.
The team executed well enough to keep them in contention throughout the remaining two heats.
With so many little things that can go wrong during a run, and a race that is decided by just fractions of a second, we are surely in for a dramatic conclusion on Sunday.