|Who's got the fastest sled? It sounds like a question more suited for children at the top of a snowy hill, but at the Olympics grown men and women will have to wait a few days before deciding their medals.|
The bobsled will be the last sport to start at Torino, as the opening runs of the two-man competition won't begin until the middle Saturday of the Games.
There are three bobsled events spread out over six days during the final week of the Games. The two-man runs will take place Saturday, February 18th and Sunday, the 19th. The women's event is scheduled for the following two days and the four-man competition is slated for Friday, February 24th and Saturday, the 25th.
The venue for the bobsled competition is Cesana Pariol, which will first host the luge and skeleton events during the first week.
Bobsled has been a part of the Olympics since the first Winter Games in 1924, and has been dominated by German and Swiss teams. Switzerland has captured 14 medals in both two-man and four-man competition, while Germany -- including the split teams from East and West during the Cold War era -- has totaled an incredible 36 medals.
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As usual, teams from Switzerland and Germany will be among the favorites for the Torino Games, but the United States and Canada will also be in the running for gold.
Teams driven by Todd Hays of the United States, Pierre Lueders of Canada, Andre Lange of Germany and Martin Annen of Switzerland are among the top five in both the two-man and four-man World Cup standings.
Germany swept the men's titles at the 2002 Salt Lake Games, winning both the two-man and four-man competitions. The Germans, as a matter of fact, have won the last three Olympic gold medals in four-man bobsled.
Lange was the driver for the four-man gold squad in Salt Lake and will try to maintain the German dominance. Hays drove the Americans to silver in the four- man four years ago, giving the U.S. its first Olympic medal in 46 years. Annen, meanwhile, captured bronze in the two-man competition in 2002.
Germany's Sandra Kiriasis is the dominant women's driver on the World Cup circuit, having won four of the first six events on the 2005-06 schedule. She was also the silver-medal winning driver in the first women's Olympic competition four years ago in Salt Lake City. Another German, Susi-Lisa Erdmann, captured one of the other World Cup events and Canada's Helen Upperton also has one victory.
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Upperton entered the final weekend of January second in the World Cup standings, just behind Kiriasis, while American Shauna Rohbock was third thanks to four podium finishes.
Rohbock will get a crack at Olympic glory four years after being dumped as the brakewoman for Jill Bakken, who went on to capture the first-ever women's bobsled gold medal with Vonetta Flowers in Salt Lake. Flowers is also back for another try at Olympic gold, this time with driver Jean Prahm, who also stirred up controversy before the Salt Lake Games with a partner change. Four years ago, Prahm -- then Jean Racine -- became known as "Mean Jean" and finished fifth. There appears to be no such controversy this year among the women.
On the men's side, Hays will return to the scene of a devastating injury. Last January in a World Cup event at Cesana Pariol, the left inside runner ran over Hays' right foot during the start of his first run. The cut ran deep, but Hays finished the run before heading to the hospital for surgery.
Hays appears to be in fine form heading to Torino, as the top-ranked driver in the overall World Cup standings. He will make his third consecutive Olympic trip, while teammate Randy Jones, who was also part of the silver medal squad in Salt Lake, will be appearing in his fourth Olympics.
Lueders will try to capture his second Olympic medal for Canada. He shared the gold in the two-man competition at the 1998 Games in Nagano and his illustrious career includes nearly 70 World Cup medals. The Edmonton native will pilot both two-man and four-man sleds.
- Jim Gillis, TSN Managing Editor