LAKE PLACID, NY—Justin Kripps and Alex Kopacz completed a medal hat trick for Team Canada at the season-opening World Cup bobsleigh and skeleton event after winning the silver in the men’s two-man bobsleigh race on Friday.
Competing for first time together, Kripps (Summerland, B.C.) and Kopacz (London, Ont.) posted the second fastest time in each of their two trips down the 1,455-metre icy chute on Mount Hoevenberg, finishing with a two-run time of 1:51.84.
“It was an awesome day today. We executed two really good runs. The start was strong and the driving was consistent,” said Kripps. “I thought we may be able to sneak out the win, but (Codie) Bascue was a little bit better today and got the win so hats off to him for his first victory.”
Warm weather conditions forced race officials to cancel the four-man competition and hold back-to-back two-man events. The 30-year-old Kripps was sitting in third spot with Jesse Lumsden after the first run on Thursday evening, but dropped off the podium in fourth spot. Looking for a bit more on the start, Canadian coaches decided to shake up the teams Friday in an effort to pull out a medal from the season-opener.
Kripps and the 27-year-old Kopacz delivered.
“I show up for every race fully prepared regardless of who is pushing me so I was ready today,” said Kripps. “I thought we executed well yesterday but it didn’t happen. Every day is different and that is bobsleigh. I was happy to have another shot at a medal today. The coaches thought we could get a little more out of the push so they made the swap. I was ready and Alex pushed well.
“It was a great battle both days. It was really great racing and lots of fun. The whole goal is to set things up to position yourself well for Pyeongchang so it was important to start well.”
It was the fifth World Cup medal for Kripps – fourth in the two-man event – to go along with the silver medal he and Lumsden won at last year’s World Championships. He also had a second-place finish in Lake Placid last year.
“I love Lake Placid. It is the first track I ever went down from the top so I have some good history here,” added Kripps. “It is one of those tracks that is difficult and rough. The Europeans hate it and the North Americans love racing it especially in the cold weather like it was today.”
It was the first two-man medal for Kopacz. He also has a bronze medal to his credit from last year’s four-man race in Lake Placid.
“It was an excellent day today. It was a bit of a surprise last night to have the switch but the day went well and it worked out for the best,” said Kopacz, who is an engineering professional when not traveling down the bobsleigh track. “Coming from the professional world I understand that is how things work and we need to do what is best for the greater good. I just prepared myself to perform well. We were in a fight for the win. It was my first two-man medal so it was quite exhilarating today.”
The top Canucks were sandwiched between two American sleds on the podium. Codie Bascue and Samuel McGuffie clocked a golden time of 1:51.73. Nick Cunningham and Ryan Bailey were on the podium for the second-straight day, winning the bronze medal with a time of 1:52.13.
The shift in brakemen also propelled Canada’s Chris Spring into a top-five finish. Reuniting with Lumsden (Burlington, Ont.) for the first time since 2014, Calgary’s Spring was in the podium hunt sitting in fourth after the first run, but dropped one spot when the dust finally settled, finishing at 1:52.27.
Hamilton’s Nick Poloniato teamed up with Edmonton’s Neville Wright for a 12th place finish at 1:52.62.
Earlier in the day, Dave Greszczyszyn led a Canadian trio in the men’s skeleton race.
Still trying to gel with a new sled, the 38 year old from Brampton, Ont, squeaked into the final spot in the top-20 who earned a start in the second heat. After going through video review with his coach between heats, Greszczyszyn put down a top-10 run in his final trip down the track to move up seven spots into 13th place with a time of 1:49.43.
“I knew I should be in the upper half of the field and I was lucky enough I got a chance to redeem myself,” said Greszczyszyn, who added it was a solid outing for the men’s team in their quest to qualify three sleds for the Olympic Games.
“I was struggling in corners four, five and six all week. In reviewing the video I saw it. I was just trying to muscle it all week. I know the lines down the track. I just have to trust myself and the sled, relax and let it run a bit more. I was really tight. I need to build the confidence. That is the goal leading up to the Olympics. We want to build confidence each week and put two consistent runs together race after race.”
Kevin Boyer, of Sherwood Park, Alta., had his career-best finish on the World Cup. The 24 year old clocked a 14th-place time of 1:49.54. Calgary’s Barrett Martineau was 16th at 1:49.87.
Latvia’s Martins Dukurs dominated the opening race of the Olympic year with a time of 1:47.54. Korea’s Sungbin Yun was second at 1:47.65, while Russia’s Alexander Tretiakov slid to the bronze medal at 1:47.71.
The World Cup now shifts to Park City, Utah next week before heading north to Whistler, B.C.
Top-Five Men’s Bobsleigh and Canadian Results:
- Codie Bascue/Samuel McGuffie, USA, 1:51.73; 2. Justin Kripps, Summerland, B.C/Alex Kopacz, London, Ont., CAN, 1:51.84; 3. Justin Olsen/Evan Weinstock, USA, 1:52.13; 4. Nick Cunningham/Ryan Bailey, USA, 1:52.25; 5. Chris Spring, Calgary/Jesse Lumsden, Burlington, Ont., 1:52.27
Other Canadian Result:
- Nick Poloniato, Hamilton/Neville Wright, Edmonton, 1:52.62
Top-Five Men’s Skeleton and Canadian Results:
- Martin Dukurs, LAT, 1:47.54; 2. Sungbin Yun, KOR, 1:47.65; 3. Alexander Tretiakov, RUS, 1:47.71; 4. Axel Jungk, GER, 1:48.12; 5. Nikita Tregubov, RUS, 1:48.23.
- Dave Greszczyszyn, Brampton, Ont., 1:49.43; 14. Kevin Boyer, Sherwood Park, Alta., 1:49.54; 16. Barrett Martineau, Calgary, 1:49.87