Canada’s Kripps, Kopacz tie Germans for two-man bobsled gold medal

History repeated itself for Canada in the two-man bobsled event at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

Canadian Justin Kripps tied Germany’s Francesco Friedrich for gold Monday. The native of Summerland, B.C., product and brakeman Alex Kopacz of London, Ont., slid to a combined four-run time of three minutes 16.86 seconds.

“When I crossed that line, and I managed to actually see the clock that said No. 1 — it’s pretty tough to see when you’re ripping up the breaking stretch — but just so excited and everybody started mobbing into the track,” Kripps said. “I saw the Germans and they were super excited, too. I was like, ‘Man, that’s nice. They’re really excited that we won.’

“We’re all good friends. Once the mob kind of dispersed a little bit Thorsten was giving me a hug, he was in my ear and he was like, ‘It was three hundredths and two and then we tied.’ I was like, ‘We tied?’ It’s insane. Amazing.”

Kripps joins Pierre Lueders, who took gold at the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan, _ also in a tie _ as the only Canadians to top an Olympic podium in two-man. Lueders also won two-man silver at the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy, for the country’s other medal in the discipline.

Latvia’s Oskars Melbardis and Janis Strenga won bronze in 3:16.91.

Hamilton’s Nick Poloniato and brakeman Jesse Lumsden _ the former CFL running back from Burlington, Ont. _ were seventh in 3:17.74. Australian-born Chris Spring of Priddis, Alta., and Lascelles Brown of Calgary were 10th in 3:18.24.

The medal was Canada’s 17th of the Games (six gold, five silver, six bronze), leaving the team third in the overall standings.

The Canadian women’s hockey team earned a 5-0 semifinal win over the Olympic Athletes from Russia to set up yet another gold-medal showdown with the United States. Meanwhile, ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir topped the short dance, skier Cassie Sharpe is off to a promising start in the women’s halfpipe and the men’s and women’s curling teams once again had mixed results.

Since women’s hockey made its Olympic debut in 1998, Canada and the U.S. have met in every final except 2006 when the Americans were upset by Sweden in the semifinal. The Canadians will look to extend their gold-medal run to five straight.

Jennifer Wakefield led Canada with two goals. Captain Marie-Philip Poulin, Emily Clark and Rebecca Johnston also scored while Shannon Szabados stopped 14 shots for the shutout and her second win of the tournament.

The Americans advanced with a 5-0 victory over Finland.

Virtue and Moir are a step closer to ending their Olympic careers with gold medals around their necks. The three-time world champions scored 83.67 points in Monday’s short dance to stand first overall. The score topped their own previous world mark of 82.68 set at Skate Canada International in October.

“That’s something we are really proud of,” said Moir. ”That is every athlete’s goal here and to come out and do the best you can. And to do it on this stage, we’re really, really proud of that. We know our work isn’t over. It’s a long event. The biggest chunk is tomorrow and we have to stay on our game.”

French rivals Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron scored 81.93 for second.

Virtue, a 28-year-old from London, Ont., and the 30-year-old Moir, from Ilderton, Ont., won Olympic gold in Vancouver in 2010. They lost to Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White four years later in Sochi, and then took two seasons off, returning in hopes of reclaiming gold.

Virtue and Moir, who will retire after Pyeongchang, were undefeated in their return until losing to Papadakis and Cizeron in the Grand Prix Final in December.

Canada’s other duos also qualified for the free dance, with Andrew Poje and Kaitlyn Weaver sitting eighth with 74.33 points and Piper Gilles and Paul Poirer earning 69.60 for ninth. The free dance is Tuesday.

“We tried to go there and really soak in the environment and the energy that is the Olympics,” said Poje. “It’s an amazing experience to be part of the team here and the great environment of all the athletes.”

Sharpe, of Comox, B.C., took the top spot in women’s halfpipe qualifying, scoring 93.40 on her second run after a 93.00 on her first. In halfpipe, the best score from two runs counts.

“On my first run I just really wanted to land, that’s like my biggest thing for my confidence,” said Sharpe. ”If I don’t land my first run, I have a hard time coming back from that, so I just really wanted to land my run, and then after that I was like ‘OK, I want to qualify first because I want to drop last in the final’.

“Because if you do well through that, you can drop last, and it’s your victory lap. It’s the best feeling in the world. So if I can get another one of those, I mean, I’m so excited.”

Calgary’s Rosalind Groenewoud qualified 11th with 73.20. The top 12 competitors move on to Tuesday’s final.

France’s Marie Martinod was second with 92.00 points with American Brita Sigourney third with 90.60 points.

In women’s big air, Laurie Blouin of Stoneham, Que., was fourth after the qualifying round. She scored 92.25 in her second run, landing a cab double underflip, the same trick she tried in her first run. In big air, the best score from two runs counts.

“I did one of my biggest tricks that I have 100 per cent on lock to make sure I make it through to final,” said Blouin. “For the final I have another big trick, so I’m going to have to work hard in practice.”

Blouin suffered a head injury during a fall in training for the women’s slopestyle Feb. 9, but went on to win a silver medal in that event.

Spencer O’Brien of Courtenay, B.C., was 11th after earning 76.75 points in her second run. The top 12 competitors advance to Friday’s finals.

Austria’s Anna Gasser was first in qualifying with 98.00 points in her second run, followed up by Japan’s Yuka Fujimori (94.25) and Reira Iwabuchi (92.75).

In curling, the losing streak continues for Kevin Koe. The Calgary skip lost his third straight game Monday, a 9-7 decision against the U.S. in extra ends.

The loss drops Koe’s rink to 4-3 but it remains tied for third with Britain. The top four make the semifinals.

On the women’s side, Rachel Homan pulled her rink into playoff contention with an 8-3 win over Japan. Homan has won three straight after beginning the tournament with three losses.

The win put Canada into a tie for fourth with China and Britain at 3-3.

The Canadian Press

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