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Spring jumps up to claim first World Cup gold

Canadian caps golden day at Whistler Sliding Centre
Canadians Lascelles Brown and Chris Spring grin after receiving their gold medals in BMW IBSF World Cup two-man bobsleigh at Whistler Sliding Centre on Jan. 23. Photo by Dan Falloon

On a day where records fell almost as quickly as the sleds bombing down the track, Chris Spring didn't quite end up with his name in the Whistler Sliding Centre's history books.

But at the end of the day, he and brakeman Lascelles Brown ended up with what ultimately mattered: the BMW IBSF World Cup two-man bobsleigh gold medal around their necks. It was the first-ever World Cup gold for Spring, who won bronzes twice previously, once in four-man and once in two-man.

"It's been a long time," Spring said. "I'm one of the best drivers here in the world and if we have the start, which we did, it's pretty easy to have the confidence going into a race knowing that I can win a race. We showed that today."

The Spring sled sat second after the first run as Russia's Alexander Kasjanov set a new track record with a 51.31-second effort that left the Canadians 0.04 seconds off the pace. German pilot Thomas Florschutz held the previous record with a run of 51.57 seconds during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

"I was really hoping I could grab that track record because something that stays with you for a long time. Hats off to Kasjanov and his team. They did a great job," he said.

Over the two days of action, Kasjanov had a tendency to overcome slow starts with breathtaking finishes. However, despite a better start in his second run, he and brakeman Aleksei Pushkarev soon faltered and slipped back to take a second consecutive bronze. Latvia's Ugis Zalims and Intars Dambis rose from fifth to second to hit the podium.

Spring, an Australian-born athlete who received Canadian citizenship two years ago, saw the Russians struggle early in the second run but refused to count them out until quite late.

"They made a mistake at the top in the load and you never want to wish anything ill upon anyone. I knew at the bottom that they were going to be coming back," Spring said. "Their three-tenths (of a second deficit) was a lot about halfway down. Lascelles was giving me high fives and I'm like 'Whoa, easy buddy! It's not over yet.' Somewhere around Thunderbird (turn 16) I knew we had it. The celebration started early."

The gold was extra special for Spring, who very nearly went without. When competing in the four-man event in Altenberg, Germany in 2012, he was in a debilitating crash that hospitalized him and two others and left him unsure as to whether he would compete again.

After the first run, the Canadians were in position to put a pair of teams on the podium as Justin Kripps was running third and briefly held the new track record with his first run of 51.39 seconds, though he and brakeman Alex Kopacz were the first sled down. A couple small mistakes in their second run bumped the duo to fifth, though Kripps was ultimately satisfied with the result.

"Whistler has always been a bit of a love-hate for me. Sometimes I'm good here, sometimes I'm crashing, sometimes I'm slow, so overall, it was a good weekend," said Summerland's Kripps, who placed eighth on Friday night. "I'm just super pumped for Spring and Lascelles. That's amazing. It's been awhile for those boys and I couldn't be happier for them."

If Kripps had held onto third place, it would have been the first time Canada had placed to men's teams on the podium at the same race.

Overall, Kripps sits fifth in the standings while Spring leapt to 11th. Korean Yunjong Won, who tied for first in Friday's race, continues to lead, while Zalims is second and Germany's Nico Walther is third.

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