TWO-MAN BOBSLED HEATS 1 AND 2 (OF 4):
- Francesco Friedrich/Thorsten Margis, GER, 1:58:38
- Johannes Lochner/Florian Bauer, GER, (+0.15)
- Rostislav Gaitiukevich/Aleksey Laptev, ROC, (+0.94)
WATCH FULL EVENT REPLAYS: HEATS 1 AND 2
At the midpoint of the two-man bobsled competition, Germany is in a good position to earn their seventh sliding sport gold at the 2022 Winter Olympics – and possibly sweep the podium. But which German team will come out on top?
Gold medal favorites Francesco Friedrich and Thorsten Margis – the defending champions in both the two- and four-man events – are only 0.15 seconds ahead of compatriots Johannes Lochner and Florian Bauer after a surprisingly bumpy Heat 2 cost them 0.36 seconds. Still, both duos are comfortably ahead of third-standing Russian Olympic Committee's Rostislav Gaitiukevich and Aleksey Laptev by more than half a second.
The fifth through 13th-place standings are all within half a second of one another – teams from Canada, Latvia, Austria, and elsewhere. The 2018 PyeongChang Olympics saw Friedrich and Margis tie Canada's Justin Kripps and Alexander Kopacz for gold (Kripps, now with partner Cameron Stones, currently sits in tenth place); halfway through the 2022 Winter Olympics competition, Austria's Benjamin Maier and Markus Sammer are tied with Switzerland's Michael Vogt and Sandro Michel for fifth. These rankings may be fluid through the final two heats, but it's unlikely any team outside of the current top four will earn a medal.
Team USA's driver Frank Del Duca and pusher Hakeem Abdul-Saboor now stand in 15th place, 1.71 seconds off the lead. They'll struggle to crack the top 10, let alone grab a medal. But they could best PyeongChang 2018's top American two-man duo, Justin Olsen and Evan Weinstock, who finished 14th. (It's unfair to compare times across two Olympics, considering the major differences between courses.) Del Duca is an Olympic newcomer, but Abdul-Saboor landed 21st in two-man at the last Games behind pilot Nick Cunningham.
Hopefully pilot Hunter Church and partner Charlie Volker can boost their 28th-place standing, but that may prove difficult considering Church's recent toe surgery, and the difficulty of the highly technical and tricky Xiaohaituo Bobsled and Luge Track appropriately nicknamed "The Dragon."
SEE MORE: Meet the 2022 U.S. Bobsled Olympic Team
Another popular team that looks to improve during the final two heats: Jamaica's pilot Shanwayne Stephens and pusher Nimroy Turgott. They almost wiped out toward the end of Heat 1, but somehow managed to get gravity on their side. "Cursed" curve 13 has proved problematic for many luge, skeleton, and bobsled athletes.
Jamaica was in 30th place at the midpoint, 4.20 seconds from the lead.