Coakwell and crew crash in Sochi, but vow to be back
Ben Coakwell finished his first Olympics battered and bruised and hungry for more.
Moose Jaw's Ben Coakwell.
The Moose Jaw bobsledder watched his teammates complete their final run at the Sochi Games in street clothes Sunday after he and his Canada-3 teammates suffered a crash during Saturday's second run of the games.
"Burnt, busted and bruised but not broken. Ready to support my teammates on their final run. Some well deserving athletes get their shot today," Coakwell tweeted before the four-man bobsled competition concluded Sunday.
Coakwell and teammate Cody Sorensen both sat out Canada-3's third run. Alternates Luke Demetre and Graeme Rinholm took their place and made their Olympic debut. Coakwell and Sorensen were both at the finish line to congratulate their teammates after a successful final run.
It was a tumultuous 72 hours for Coakwell and the members of Canada’s four-man bobsleigh teams. The day before the competition began, Canadian head coach Tom De La Hunty opted to switch the pilots on two of the teams. Coakwell and his teammates Sorensen and Jesse Lumsden joined pilot 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.”
De La Hunty said the decision was made with consultation of other coaches, the technical push coach, the high-performance director and the team’s sports psychologist. Kripps won a World Cup two-man race last month and had the top Canadian two-man result in Sochi.
The two new crews only had two training runs together Friday before competition began Saturday. With Canada’s three fastest brakemen 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.
Kripps started to lose control coming out of turn 11 and the nose of the sled started angling away from the corner. The sled ended up rolling straight into the corner while on two runners.
The sled flipped on its side and the tops of the Canadian bobsledder's helmets 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 and looked to get the worst of the crash as his upper back and his shoulder scraped along the ice while it hurtled down the course.
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.
Lumsden later tweeted: "We don't stop, we won't quit, we will be back in the sled (Sunday) and we will finish the race … 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 Saturday. Both of their start times were 4.78 seconds which was 1/100th of a second off of the course record.
Their ill-fated second run looked like it was going to move them into fourth place and right in the middle of the medal picture.
“I think that decision was vindicated even though he crashed, because he was flying,” De La Hunty told The Canadian Press.
Spring — Coakwell, Lumsden and Sorensen's pilot for the rest of the season — was devastated to lose his crew on the eve of the Olympics.
"I know the coaches always have the best intentions for the program," Spring told CBC television. "I strongly disagree with the decisions they made this week."
Following the crash, Canada-3 sat in 30th place with a total time of 1:55.08. Because they crossed the finish line they were able to take their third run. Their third run time of 55.72 was the 10th fastest on the that third run despite the personnel changes, but they weren't able to move into the top-20 to get a fourth run. They finished 30th.
Canada-2, piloted by Lyndon Rush from Humboldt finished in ninth place with a four-run time of 3:41.75. Spring and Canada-1 finished 13th with a time of 3:42.84.
Russia's Alexander Zubkov won gold in 3:40.60, while Oskars Melbardis from Lativa (3:40.69) was second and American Steven Holcomb (3:40.99) was third.