Winter Olympics / Bobsleigh: Tout's slow start costly

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The Independent Online
BRITISH aspirations for a first Olympic bobsleigh medal for 30 years all but evaporated on the opening day of the four- man competition here yesterday. After promising so much for so long during the build-up to these Winter Games, Mark Tout produced only the eighth fastest time after the first two runs.

Tout and his Zanussi crew of George Farrell, Jason Wing and Lenny Paul, needed to make the most of their early start to the second run to put themselves in the medal hunt overnight. However, it all went wrong on the block with a terrible start of 5.07sec, which was the slowest of the top group of 15. Even the Jamaicans and the Japanese started faster in 5.06sec.

Ironically, the No 2 British crew of Sean Olsson, John Herbert, Dean Ward and Paul Field, who are lying 12th, produced two lightning starts. Olsson clocked a British record of 4.94 over the first 50 metres on his opening descent, which was the joint second-fastest time behind Canada's Pierre Leuders. And he was the fourth quickest away on the second in 4.96.

Tout could only rue what might have been had he been given such supercharged starts. 'We had our chance on the second run but we blew it,' he said. 'Unless there is an earthquake in the morning or something similar, we've got no chance of a medal now.

'There's no reason for us being so much off the pace at the start. We had a hold-up on the ice again, and had to get changed a second time. But that's not an excuse. We just under-performed.

'I'm not blaming anyone because there are four of us pushing and it's a team effort. We just weren't good enough when it mattered most. It's as simple as that.'

Tout remains intent on still matching his top-six finish here in last week's two-man event. 'We have been fighting together all season and we will continue to give it our best shot over the final two runs. We're only 0.13sec behind Christian Meili in sixth place, and with the sixth starting position for the third run, we'll have good ice in the morning to get ourselves up at least two or three places.'

Olsson goes off first this morning, which gives him every opportunity for another top-10 finish on his Olympic debut.

'Our starts were absolutely brilliant today and there's no reason we can't finish a couple of places higher, which I would be well satisfied with,' the 26- year-old paratrooper said.

The ice was so fast yesterday, with the temperature dropping to minus 13C, that the British reserve, Rob Pope, driving the first of 10 pilot bobs used before the start, came down in an unofficial track record of 51.93sec off a 5.20sec start.

The official record was then lowered three times in quick succession, with Germany's Harold Czudaj clocking the day's best of 51.67 to lead Switzerland's Gustav Weder overnight by 0.12 in an aggregate time of 1:43.55.

At yesterday's farewell gala in Hamar Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, whose hastily revamped, rapturously acclaimed ice dance routine failed to hit the spot with the judges who decreed they were worth only the bronze medal, skated the Bolero routine which won them the Olympic title 10 years ago in Sarajevo.

The routine was dedicated to those now suffering in that city. Nine spectators holding scorecards promptly stood up to award the British pair perfect sixes. This week, they have had to be satisfied with the people's vote.

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