Coakwell's medal hopes dashed after crash

Matthew Gourlie
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Following a late pilot change, Canada-3 crashes in four-man bobsleigh

Ben Coakwell

It was a tumultuous 48 hours for Moose Jaw’s Ben Coakwell and the members of Canada’s four-man bobsleigh teams.

The day before competition began in the four-man, Canadian head coach Tom De La Hunty opted to switch the pilots on two of the teams. Coakwell and his teammates Jesse Lumsden and Cody Sorensen joined Justin Kripps on Canada-3 and Kripps’ old crew of Tim Randall, James McNaughton and Bryan Barnett joined pilot Chris Spring on Canada-1.

De La Hunty called it the hardest decision of his coaching career.

“This is a performance-based decision. There’s nothing personal in it,” De La Hunty told CBC television. “I just felt that over the last couple of weeks that Justin’s performance has been getting better, whereas Chris Spring has not quite been the Chris Spring we’ve known over the whole of the season. Chris has been really good over the whole year, but just recently we’ve seen Justin really come into his own.”

The two new crews only had two training runs together Friday before competition began Saturday.

With Canada’s three fastest breakmen behind him, Kripps was eighth after the first run. In his second run disaster struck as Kripps crashed in turn 14 ending their medal hopes. The sled flipped and the tops of the four Canadian helmet carved into the ice as the sled continued down the Sanki Sliding Center course until it crossed the finish line.

Coakwell, who sits in the rear of the sled, was the last to get out, but all four Canadian crew members walked away from the crash. The Russian fans chanted “Ca-na-da” as they walked up the track to the exit.

All four were being examined after the crash, but early reports were that there were no major injuries suffered.

Lumsden later tweeted: "We don't stop, we won't quit, we will be back in the sled tomorrow and we will finish the race tomorrow as Canucks do with honour and pride."

Coakwell tweeted that he felt for his boys and vowed to be back in 2018.

My hunger lives. Canada you got a taste of me. (Four) years from now (you will) get more," Coakwell said on twitter.

The Canada-3 crew got off to a pair of great starts. Both of their start times were 4.78 seconds which was 1/100th of a second off of the course record. The Americans in USA-1 broke the course record later in the day with a time of 4.75 seconds.

Following the crash, Canada-3 sits in 30th place with a total time of 1:55.08, but can take their third run at 3 a.m. Sunday if they are all healthy enough to do so.

It is possible that one of Canada’s two alternates could also fill in if needed.

It is highly unlikely that they will be able to finish in the top-20 and qualify for the fourth, and final, run of the competition later Sunday morning.

Canada-2, piloted by Lyndon Rush from Humboldt, sits in 10th place with a two-run time of 1:50.78. Spring and Canada-1 is 13th with a time of 1:51.20.

Organizations: CBC, Sanki Sliding Center

Geographic location: Canada, Moose Jaw, USA Sochi Russia Sanki Sliding Centre

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