Chris Spring and Neville Wright stormed onto the silver-medal step of the podium in a Canadian dominated two-man bobsleigh World Cup race on Saturday in Winterberg, Germany.
The newly formed duo, who won the gold medal two weeks ago at the Whistler Sliding Centre in their first race together, captured their first World Cup medal outside of North America, while leading all three Canadian men’s sleds into the top-five on a snowy and cold day in Germany. Kaillie Humphries and Mellisa Lotholz also finished fourth in the women’s race.
“It is always great to be on the podium and Neville has been an amazing teammate. Not only is he pushing great, but he is giving me lots of confidence in my driving, and that’s what I need,” said the 33-year-old Spring. “I’m a Mojo guy and when I have good mojo then the sled starts to get moving. It’s the X factor I always look for.”
Calgary’s Spring and Edmonton’s Wright climbed two spots in their final run to chalk up a combined-run time of 1:51.76 on the 1,330-metre track to finish in a tie for second place with the German team of Francesco Friedrich and Thorsten Margis.
“I thought the run was good and I knew that we were going to push fast. Neville was pushing really well off the top,” said Spring. “I’m a little surprised but at the same time happy.”
It was the fifth career two-man medal for Spring, who has two victories. He also has three four-man podium finishes. All of those triumphs have come on familiar tracks in Whistler, Calgary, Lake Placid and Park City.
“It is my first medal in Europe, but I feel like I’ve come close so many times on multiple tracks over here,” added Spring. “Finally cracking onto that podium outside of North America definitely helps my confidence knowing I can be successful anywhere.”
It was the 10th career World Cup medal for the 36-year-old Wright who provided the man power for the Canadian sled on the tricky German track.
“It actually felt really good from the start, and I’m like ‘this has to be fast,'” said Wright, following his fourth ever medal in the two-man event. “We got some mojo going into the race, so the plan was just to keep it moving, keep it going.”
The entire Canadian squad found their mojo thanks to the boisterous German crowd lining the 15-corner track.
Justin Kripps, of Summerland, B.C., and Alex Kopacz (London, Ont.) finished just shy of the podium in fourth spot with a time of 1:51.79.
Second year World Cup pilot, Nick Poloniato (Hamilton) and veteran Calgary-based brakeman, Lascelles Brown completed one of the most successful days for the Canadian men’s bobsleigh program with a fifth-place finish at 1:51.80. The Canadian duo captured the world’s attention after rocking the fastest start time in the opening run. Holding the lead into the final heat, the Canucks dropped into fifth when the dust finally settled at the finish line.
“To have all three men’s teams in the top-five – wow – what an accomplishment for the boys,” added Spring. “There is a lot of positive things going on outside the sleds with this group of guys. We’re not just teammates but good friends and that’s really helping all of us be successful.”
The team approach has the Canadian sleds sitting one-two in the overall two-man World Cup standings. Justin Kripps leads the standings, while Chris Spring sits second.
The hunt for the podium continued in women’s race for the Canadian sleds. Calgary’s Kaillie Humphries and Melissa Lotholz (Barrhead, Alta.) were poised to reach their fourth straight podium after clocking the third fastest opening run. While the duo improved their start time on the second run, they dropped one spot off the podium into fourth at 1:55.22.
“Overall it’s a good day. It’s hard, the snow makes for a very unpredictable race. But I’m really happy with how I drove. This is one of my most difficult and challenging tracks,” said Humphries, who remains the overall leader on the World Cup. “I’ve finished seventh and ninth and 12th here so I can’t be mad at the fourth place.”
Germany’s Stephanie Schneider and Lisa Buckwitz set the time to beat at 1:54.90. Elana Meyers Taylor and Lauren Gibbs from the United States stopped the clock at 1:55.16 for second place. Mariama Jamanka and Annika Drazek, also of Germany, were third at 1:55.18.
Edmonton’s Alysia Rissling and Heather Moyse (Summerside, P.E.I.) placed 16th at 1:56.49. Christine de Bruin (Stony Plain, Alta.), and Cynthia Appiah (Toronto) did not qualify for the second run, finishing 21st.
The World Cup wraps up on Sunday in Winterberg with the four-man bobsleigh races.