Weder and Acklin leave it late in the bobsleigh

The two-man bobsleigh competition in Albertville proved to be exceptionally thrilling and unpredictable.

Picture by Bob Martin

At the halfway stage the top three positions were held by Great Britain, Italy-1 and Austria-2. The major surprise were the British pair of Mark Tout and Lenny Paul, who had been fastest in the first run, and then held on to top spot despite going only eighth quickest in the second.

Could the outsiders stay in the medal positions in the final two runs, or would the favourites come through?

Foremost among the fancied teams was the Swiss pairing of Gustav Weder and Donat Acklin, who were a lowly fifth at the start of the second day. They had only been ninth fastest in the first run, but had then started to show signs of their ability in the second, coming home third fastest. They were only 0.26 seconds behind the leaders as they went into the crucial third run.

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With the pressure on, the British duo could finish no higher than ninth, but the Austrian second-string pairing once again over-achieved, clinging on to third place overall. Meanwhile, Italy-1 held on to second place, . And ominously for the rest of the field, both German teams were now gathering momentum, moving up to fourth and fifth in the standings.

But by the end of the third run it was Weder and Acklin who were out in front. They had competed together four years earlier in Calgary, where they had finished fourth, but had rarely raced together since. Weder had been joined by first Bruno Gerber, and then Curdin Morell as he enjoyed great success at successive world championships. It was only in the run-up to the 1992 Games that Acklin and Weder were reunited, with the express aim of winning the Olympic title.

Going into the fourth and final run, the top eight teams were separated by just 0.43 seconds. Any slips now, and a medal could disappear in the blink of an eye. It was a test of mental strength as much as sporting excellence, and the Swiss pair rose to the occasion superbly. They set the joint fastest time of the run, with the Germany-1 sled matching their time to move up from fifth and into silver medal position. Germany-2 took bronze, but it was Weder and Acklin who earned the headlines. They repeated their victory two years later in Lillehammer.