Kripps pilots Canadian bobsleigh crew to 2nd place on tricky Winterberg track

·3 min read
Kripps pilots Canadian bobsleigh crew to 2nd place on tricky Winterberg track

Canada's Justin Kripps and his bobsleigh crew of Ben Coakwell, Ryan Sommer and Cam Stones will return from Germany with their first podium finish of the season after placing second in Sunday's World Cup event in Winterberg.

They posted a two-run time of one minute 48.70 seconds on a tricky, 15-corner track to finish behind Germany's Francesco Friedrich, Alexander Schuelller, Thorsten Margis, Candy Bauer, who clocked 1:48.13.

"We are happy to have opened up our season with a silver medal in Winterberg, which is our best finish ever on this track," Sommer told Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton as the squad prepared to travel to St. Moritz, Switzerland for the next competition.

"We had really good execution on both of our pushes. This is something that we have worked on this off-season. Being able to execute on race day is exactly what we wanted to do."

WATCH | Justin Kripps leads Canadian crew to podium in season debut:

Friedrich made bobsled history Sunday by tying the record for World Cup wins by a driver with No. 46. Germany's Andre Lange had 45 victories while another German, retired women's driver Sandra Kiriasis, won 46 World Cup races in her career.

Friedrich is a nine-time world champion, two-time Olympic gold medallist and has simply been dominant in his sport over the last three years. In his last 47 international races, starting with the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, Friedrich has 36 golds, six silvers and two bronzes — never finishing lower than fifth.

The Austrian team of Benjamin Maier, Kristian Huber, Markus Sammer and Sascha Stepan was third Sunday in 1:48.89.

"This track is difficult because the Germans have a million training runs here and the weather is always terrible," said Kripps of Summerland, B.C., who turned 34 on Wednesday. "It can also be tricky here because it can catch you falling asleep at the top where there is no speed or pressure, and sometimes you don't pay attention to the details that build what little speed you have for the bottom."

Sunday represented the sixth top-three finish for the Canadian crew that won bronze at the 2019 world championships. It's the ninth career four-man medal as a pilot for Kripps, whose previous best finish in the event at Winterberg was fourth at the 2017 World Cup.

Canada's bobsleigh athletes trained at home for the first half of the World Cup season due to international travel risks associated with COVID-19.

"Our team motto was always to 'stay ready' because we never really knew when we were going to get the chance to race this year," said Sommer of White Rock, B.C., the youngest member of the team at 27. "We were very happy to come out today and lay down the runs we did – from the starts and right through the driving from Justin. We really wanted this for each other today."

Elsewhere, Vancouver's Chris Spring and his crew of Mark Mlakar of Mississauga, Ont., Toronto's Shaq Murray Lawrence and Ottawa's Mike Evelyn, won a Europe Cup four-man bobsled race Sunday in Altenberg, Germany. Spring's sled finished ahead of German sleds piloted by Maximilian Illmann and Hans-Peter Hannighofe.