Inseparable Italians and Canadians share bobsleigh gold

Picture by Getty

Bobsleigh is a sport of exceptionally tight margins and wafer-thin measurements. Times are taken to hundredths of a second and it is often such fractions that separate the competitors over the four separate runs.

It invariably makes for tense encounters, but there can rarely have been a more absorbing, keenly matched contest than the two-man competition in Nagano.

It was clear that Germany, with Christoph Langen in the pilot seat, would be strong, as would the world champions were Switzerland. The Canadian duo spearheaded by Pierre Lueders, were also contenders, while the Americans, Latvians and the Italians also all entertained hopes of victory. It had all the makings of a classic contest.

Italy, piloted by Günther Huber, were quickest overall in the first run, with Canada 0.05 seconds behind. The second run saw the top two swap places, with Canada faster by 0.01 seconds. Italy held the overnight lead, but only by the insignificant margin of four hundredths of a second.

By now, it was looking like a two-horse race for the gold medal, with Switzerland-2 nearly half a second further back. The third run saw the two frontrunners again neck and neck as they finished second and third quickest behind Germany.

With just one run left, Italy's overall lead was down to 0.03 seconds.

With the two leading sleds racing last Canada crossed the line in 52.24 seconds. Italy now knew – anything quicker than 52.27 seconds would be good enough for gold. Anything slower would see them cede top spot to the Canadians.

They didn't go quicker… but nor did they go slower.. Remarkably, the Italians clocked exactly 52.27 seconds, meaning the two teams had finished with identical cumulative times of 3 minutes 37.24 seconds. Both sets of athletes were awarded gold medals, with Germany, who finished a distant third, taking bronze and nobody receiving the silver.