Originally created 02/16/02

U.S. takes silver, bronze in luge doubles



PARK CITY, Utah ‹ Michigan's Mark Grimmette and California's Brian Martin were less than a blink of an eye away from luge gold Friday in the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Grimmette and Martin, the bronze medalists at the 1998 Games at Nagano, took the silver medal in men's doubles, equaling the U.S.'s 2-3 finish at Nagano.

The U.S.'s Chris Thorpe and Clay Ives took bronze. Thorpe and Brian Sheer won silver at Nagano.

The two medals helped make history. They pushed the climbing U.S total to 13, which equals the most Americans have won at a Winter Olympics.

Grimmette and Martin had gold clearly in sight with only one team left on the run. They were .004 ahead of their U.S. teammates.

Then, Patric-Fritz Leitner and Alexander Resch of Germany, No. 1 after the first of two runs, got the edge on the start and kept it all the way to winning by .134 of a second.

"It's just an incredible feeling, a good day," said Grimmette, who made his third Olympic appearance and is steadily moving up the medal ladder. He was fourth in 1994 at Lillehammer before winning the bronze the next Olympiad.

The Grimmette duo was .158 behind the Germans after the first run.

"We knew we had a lot of time to make up," said Grimmette, who gained his second major honor at the Olympics. He was one of the American athletes to carry the World Trade Center flag at the Opening Ceremonies.

As Grimmette, of Muskegon, Mich., and Martin of Palo Alto, Calif., headed down the course for their final run, an American-dominated crowd of 15,000 chanted "USA, USA, USA!" all the way down.Near the finish line, under a banner reading "Muskegon loves Mark, No. 7," a large group of fans with plastic sleds on their heads, waved American flags.

The average crowd of 13,909 at Utah Olympic Park and 69,547 for five sessions was the largest in Olympic history."The American fans were just awesome," Grimmette said. "Their support was pretty important. It just made for a wonderful day."

"I came out to the track today and saw a group of my friends from California and they were really rocking and out of control at 8 in the morning," Martin said. "That got me really pumped."

Luge is the only Olympic sport measured in thousandths of seconds. Grimmette thought the difference between silver and gold was at the start of the first run.

"On that run, we didn't have good lines at the top," he said. "I felt a little nervous and I was standing a little too much on top of the sled. That's where I thought we lost the time."

Leitner and Resch flirted with disaster on both of their runs, almost crashing on the first one.

"We've crashed 50 times over our careers," Leitner said. "But we've only crashed three times and in the Olympics, not once."

"We got at the top for the last run to just hop on the luge and do our thing," Resch said.

Grimmette, who has been competing since 1985, got interested in luge on a track across the street from his home in Muskegon.

"I just started going to the track, and a lot of people came out and it was just a lot of fun," he said. "I kept having a great time so I got into the sport."

Until the last two sliders, Thorpe and Chris Ives had the gold medal.

"I've never been so nervous in my life until at the top of the last run," said Thorpe, who married nine-time U.S. freestyle skiing champion Kriste Porter last June.

"Chris, you are about to have a baby in a few weeks, you'll be more nervous then," Grimmette teased.

(David McCollum, sports columnist for the Log Cabin Democrat in Conway, Ark., is part of the Morris News Service team covering the Winter Olympics).