Friday, February 15, 2002
U.S. sleds are 2-3 for second time in doubles
PARK CITY, Utah -- Even Chris Thorpe was amazed.
He wasn't surprised that U.S. teammates Brian Martin and Mark
Grimmette won silver on Friday in luge doubles, or the German team
of Patric Leitner and Alexander Resch won gold. He was astonished
he and Clay Ives took the bronze.
Americans Clay Ives and Chris Thorpe made a late mistake and finished third.
"It's crazy to me," Thorpe said. "This is my 32nd
international medal and only Clay's second. To be able to get on
the podium at the Olympic Games with a two-year team, I still can't
Thorpe is only the second slider to win Olympic medals with
different partners. He won silver at Nagano with Gordie Sheer and
missed by .004 of a second of becoming the first to win two silvers
Competing in his fourth and final Olympics, Thorpe said he felt
like a rookie.
"I've never been so nervous in my life," he said. "I don't
think I can be more nervous."
Maybe it was the crowd of 15,000, who were screaming and waving
American flags against the deep blue Utah sky.
"On the first run, the crowd gave us a big cheer and then
settled down and were quiet so we could focus," Thorpe said. "On
the second run, it was just chaos. In 17 years of sliding I've
never felt such emotion on a sled. It felt like we were going to
break apart into pieces."
Instead, the breakdown happened at the finish line when Thorpe's
wife, Kriste, eight months pregnant, gave him a hug.
"She was crying," the 31-year-old Thorpe said. "She said she
was proud of me. That was real special to have her there."
The Americans, who finished 2-3 for the second straight
Olympics, were nearly a match for Leitner and Resch, and in doubles
anything is possible. In their first three years of sliding
together, the German duo won two world championships but also
crashed 50 times.
They felt the pressure, too.
"We were under a lot, but before the competition, I didn't
think gold," Leitner said. "I just treated it like the last run
of the season, concentrated and brought it down."
Grimmette, of Muskegon, Mich. and Martin, of Palo Alto, Calif.,
seemed destined for their second straight bronze but had the
fastest second run among the 17 sleds that finished the race -- two
crashed and were disqualified -- and edged their teammates.
"Having the experience of Nagano helped us to tune out the
crowd and concentrate," Martin said. "They've got something to
write home about now."
It was a sweet moment, too, for Ives, who also is retiring. He
quit the Canadian Olympic team because of a lack of funding after
Nagano and hooked up with Thorpe after Sheer retired in 2000.
The two had struggled mightily, and Thorpe never quite found the
chemistry he had shared with Sheer. The only other time Ives had
stood on a podium was in the World Cup finale at Winterberg three
weeks ago, when he and Thorpe took silver.
"It feels great. I feel proud to be an American athlete," said
Ives, who grew up in Bancroft, Ontario and has dual citizenship.
"Thank God the U.S. took a chance on me. I can't express how happy
I am to be here and win a medal for the United States."
Leitner and Resch carried on the rich legacy of the German luge
team. Since luge was added to the Winter Olympics in 1964, the
Germans have won nine of the 11 doubles gold medals. But the
Americans have at least made a dent.
"It's continued success," said Sheer, who is still involved
with the team and was there cheering at the end. "It shows that it
(1998) wasn't a fluke."