BEIJING (AP) — Francesco Friedrich’s pursuit of the first Olympic bobsled double-double is off to the right kind of start.
That said, Johannes Lochner is clearly not going to let his German teammate win easily.
Seeking a fourth Olympic gold medal, Friedrich and his team of Thorsten Margis, Candy Bauer and Alexander Schueller took the lead at the midpoint of the four-man race at the Beijing Games in 1 minute, 57 seconds flat. That’s a mere 0.03 seconds ahead of Lochner — the first-heat leader — and his team of Florian Bauer, Christopher Weber and Christian Rasp.
“There is actually not much of a difference," Lochner said. “For us, the race starts at zero tomorrow.”
Canada’s Justin Kripps is third, finishing in 1:57.38 with Ryan Sommer, Cam Stones and Benjamin Coakwell in his sled. No one else is within a half-second of the lead; the sled driven by Germany’s Christoph Hafer is fourth, 0.55 seconds behind Friedrich.
“Not going to overthink things," said Kripps, seeking a second Olympic medal after tying for the two-man gold with Friedrich at the Pyeongchang Games four years ago. “Just get the sled ready and rest and get ready for tomorrow.”
There have been six instances of a bobsled driver winning gold in two-man and four-man at the same Olympics: Andreas Ostler in 1952, Eugenio Monti in 1968, Meinhard Nehmer in 1976, Wolfgang Hoppe in 1984, Andre Lange in 2006 and Friedrich in 2018.
Nobody has done it twice.
Friedrich gave himself that opportunity by winning the two-man gold earlier in the Olympics, and rallied in the second heat to give himself the halftime lead going into Sunday’s final two runs — the last chapter of the sliding competition in Beijing.
He trailed by 0.16 seconds after the first heat, then was 0.19 seconds faster than Lochner in the second heat.
Hunter Church, pushed by Josh Williamson, Kris Horn and Charlie Volker, is the top U.S. sled in the field, placing 13th so far in 1:58.61.
“We’ve got a big opportunity tomorrow to climb back and get into the top 10,” Church said.
Going into the final two competitive runs of the season on Sunday, Church said he’d be holding nothing back.
“There’s nothing left to chance tomorrow,” Church said. “I don’t care what I’m feeling. I’m going to be numb and I’m going to be ready to go.”
Frank DelDuca and his team of Carlo Valdes, Jimmy Reed and Hakeem Abdul-Saboor are tied for 14th, finishing their two runs Saturday in 1:58.82.
“These guys do a great job on and off the ice,” DelDuca said. “I have a ton of respect for them. I’ve been in many different races with them over the years as a push athlete and now as a driver. It’s pretty cool to come together on the biggest stage and just put together the best results we can. I know we’re digging deep to do the best we can, and it’s a great feeling to be with them.”
Of the eight bobsledders that the U.S. had on the ice for the four-man race, only two — Valdes, who is retiring, and Abdul-Saboor, who plans on sticking around for a run at the 2026 Milan-Cortina Games — had Olympic experience before the Beijing Games.
Valdes gave DelDuca high marks.
“Frank, for his first Olympics, he’s handled it great,” Valdes said. “He’s business as usual. He’s not overthinking anything.”
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