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WINTER OLYMPICS : Two-Man Bobsled : Last 2 Runs Are Postponed Until Today

February 22, 1988|MIKE KUPPER | Times Assistant Sports Editor

CALGARY, Canada — The wind blew, the grit flew and out went the times in the third run of the bobsled here Sunday in these Games that have come to be known as the Windy Olympics.

After 28 of the 41 two-man sleds had completed the third run, the event jury decided that wind-borne sand being deposited on the track was making for increasingly unfair conditions and decided to postpone the third and fourth runs until today.

The sand was blowing because there was no snow covering it up, that having disappeared in the warm weather that has been hanging around here for the better part of a week.

It all made for lots of fun, fun, fun at the bobsled run, complete with claims of favoritism and high-handedness, a protest that turned out to be nothing more than a petition, then a real protest, dismissal of it and aggravation all around.

At question was whether just Sunday's runs should have been rescheduled or the entire two days' worth of competition, since Saturday's first two heats had been run under similar conditions. On both days, the sleds running earliest had the fastest times, the track deteriorating as the event wore on.

The jury decided, however, that there was no reason to rerun the first two heats.

"It's not fair to the (East) Germans today, so they cancel the race," said Jeff Jost, the angry coach of the United States team. "But it was OK to keep racing yesterday, when it was unfair to us.

"If they're going to cancel, they should cancel the whole thing, both days. We had the bad draw yesterday and the good draw today."

The favored East German sleds were in second and third places going into Sunday's heats, behind the No. 1 Soviet sled. The Soviet sled and one of the East German sleds were among those that ran before the event was halted. Both U.S. sleds had better times than the Soviet team, however, and one of them was faster than the No. 2 East German sled.

Jost, however, was far from the only coach upset by the decision. David Broomfield, coach of the New Zealand team, circulated what he thought was a protest, with generally enthusiastic response, he said.

"The whole thing is unfair to teams at the bottom of the draw yesterday, such as New Zealand," he said. "I started the protest. I would say that all the leading nations signed it, except the East Germans and the Soviets."

John (Mo) Hammond of Great Britain, head of the international bobsled federation jury, said that those unhappy with the decision were mistaken.

"Yesterday, the conditions were bad," he admitted. "But they were nowhere near as bad as they were today. Starting over was not a consideration. We completed the races yesterday and had no protests."

Hammond also said that New Zealand's petition was worthless, since only formal protests would be considered, and that such a protest had to be from an individual country, not a group of countries, accompanied by 50 Swiss francs.

Switzerland later obliged, filing that protest and putting up the francs. There was also an unconfirmed rumor that other protests had been formally lodged by the United States, Austria, the Soviet Union, New Zealand and West Germany.

In any event, after announcing the postponement, the jury met behind closed doors for most of the afternoon, then finally rejected the Swiss protest early in the evening, ruling that it had not been filed within a half hour of the end of the event, as required by bobsledding rules.

Earlier, a team captains' meeting had been held, Hammond presiding.

"We were cut off pretty short," said Gil Jones, manager of the U.S. team. "They said, 'This is our decision,' and got up and left."

The two U.S. sleds, driven by Brent Rushlaw and Matt Roy, were in 9th and 10th places when the racing was stopped. Both had been among the early sleds in the third run and had made up considerable time lost in their late runs Saturday. After Saturday's two heats, Rushlaw had ranked 20th and Roy 24th, just behind Prince Albert Grimaldi of Monaco, the son of the late Grace Kelly, who is not regarded as a serious bobsledder by those who do take it seriously. Such as Roy.

Hammond said that if the weather came up bad again today, and the final two heats could not be run, the medals would be awarded based on the first two runs.

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