Friday, March 02, 2007

Now that was close!

Like the title says, that was a close one. Since the race in Cortina D'ampezzo, Italy I have been the 2-man world Cup leader. With a 4th and a 1st place since then I put a decent size lead on Pierre Lueders. About 70 points. A nice cushion heading in to the last two races. I mean come on, if Andre Lange can skip two races and get disqualified in one and still be in the hunt then a 70 point lead is more than enough.

Well, as most of you know, I blew it last week in Winterberg and cut the lead down to 10 points. I headed in to the final 2-man race today in Konigsee, Germany with a 10 point lead on a multiple World Champion, Olympic Champion (2006 Olympic Silver Medalist as well), World Cup Champion; basically one of the greatest drivers that ever walked the earth. To put the icing on the cake, he won the World Championships when they were here in Konigsee in 2004, AND he won the World Cup race here last year by .30 seconds, eternity in bobsled. So, maintaining my lead, and becoming the first American to win the 2-man overall World Cup title (still being verified), is no easy task.

I started the day off with the completely wrong mindset. The days leading up to the race, and even at the race we checked with the FIBT on who is declared the Overall Winner under different circumstances. Basically what it came down to is that I had to stay within 1 spot of Lueders to be crowned the Champion. If I beat him, I win hands down, if he beats me we go to a tie breaker where the pilot with the most wins would be the victor. Well, if he wins the race, which he's done the past 2 times we were here, we would be tied for the most victories. Who knows how they'll decide after that. So, to make a short story long, I have to stay withing one spot of Lueders.

That is not the way to go in to a race, instead I should have gone out there and done what I needed to do, drive my sled, do my part and not worry about Pierre. There's nothing I can do about how he performs. I can only perform to at my best. But, of course you live, you learn.

Well, when it came to race time, it just happened to work out that he drew #7 and I was #8. The good news is that I had the advantage of seeing what I had to do, the time I had to beat. The bad news is that when he went down it was the fastest run so far and by a lot. Especially when the first 6 sleds are 6 of the 10 best drivers in the world. Well, I did what I came to do, and drove my ass off. I came through the finish .04 seconds back, and 1 spot. Perfect. Only one run left.

The second run seemed a lot more relaxed than I was expecting. I knew what I had to do to win, but at the same time, I wasn't worried about losing. To be fighting head to head in the last race for the World Cup against Pierre Lueders is a victory in itself.

The second run came around, Pierre did his usual magic, I did my best to keep within reach and it came down to the last two sleds. At that point it wasn't about the victory, or about what place I finished. It was about staying within 1 place of Lueders. There were two sleds left and I was .10s behind. This track is short and the times are always very close. It would be so easy for either one of the two Germans to come down and slip in between me and Pierre. It didn't happen.

Three weeks ago I suffered through a difficult and extremely disappointing 4th place finish at the 2007 World Championships. This week, was the most glorious 4th place finish ever. I didn't make it on the podium, i didn't get a medal. No congratulations. But, I had achieved what no other American ever has. I was the 2-man World Cup Champion.




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