Originally created 02/24/02

U.S. teams medal in bodsled



PARK CITY, Utah - Eisenhower was ending his first term, Elvis was King and no one on the current United States bobsled team had been born the last time America won an Olympic medal in the event.

But two American teams ended a 46-year medal drought with a two-three finish in the four-man bobsled Saturday at the Utah Olympic Park track.

Todd Hays, a native of a Texas border town, eclipsed by just .05 of a second the four-run total of teammate Brian Shimer, a five-time Winter Olympian who hails from the winter-sports haven of Naples, Fla.

Together, the two Yanks from sunshine states stood one-two with only two sleds left that could beat them.

One eventually did. The German sled driven by Andre Lange, a three-time World Championships medalist, had the second-fastest run of the final round to make his third-round lead hold up as he beat Hays by .3 second in total time.

It dampened only slightly the American celebration.

"This was a fairly tale ending for me," said the tearful 39-year-old Shimer, who made his first Olympic appearance in 1988. "Todd asked me, 'Can you think of a better ending than this?' And I said, 'Yeah, beating you!'

"I hate to say this," Shimer added, "but if not for Todd, I wouldn't be sitting here. When Todd came in, he took the U.S. program to a different level. I never had anyone push me before, and I hated being second to Todd. But competition within a country is good, just as it is with the Germans."

Hays, who began the day as the leader after two runs on Saturday, watched Shimer's team of Doug Sharp, Mike Kohn and Dan Steele rise from fifth to fourth after Saturday's first run, then take a temporary lead with a 47.23 fourth run that was the fastest of the final round.

But then Hays' team of Randy Jones, Bill Schuffenhauer and Garrett Hines, who began the fourth round in third, posted a 47.33 run to move ahead of the America 2 sled. It took a 47.32 run by Lange's team on the last trip down the course to perserve the .29 lead the Germans held going into the final round.

"The Germans have dominated the sport of bodsled over the years, and that's not a coincidence," said Hays, a former linebacker at Tulsa. "But Brian battling back with the fastest run of the day to get the bronze, that's got to be a storybook finish."

It was a finish that almost didn't get written after Nagano. Shimer wasn't even a cinch to make the Olympic team after injuries and a disappointing run in World Cup competition. Hays was the hot driver, his team having won a race at St. Moritz for the first time since America last won a gold medal.

And yet Shimer put together a crew that performed in medal fashion in the biggest race of the year.

"Brian," Kohn noted, "knows more about the bobsled than any English-speaking person I know."

"This wasn't supposed to happen," Steele said of the strong two-team American showing. "Brian was the guy who wasn't supposed to be able to get it done after Nagano, and the drought wasn't supposed to be broken by a maniac from Del Rio, Texas (Hays). I don't know if people gave us a chance when we started. But sometimes life is stranger than fiction."

Added Sharp: "With the women winning gold in bobsled and our skeleton people winning won two golds and a silver, the U.S. Bobsled Federation should just erupt."