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Canadians capture silver in two-man bobsled at world championship

WHISTLER, B.C. — Canada's Justin Kripps knew what he was up against at the two-man bobsled world championships in Whistler, B.C.

WHISTLER, B.C. — Canada's Justin Kripps knew what he was up against at the two-man bobsled world championships in Whistler, B.C.

Approaching the starting line for his fourth and final run on Saturday night, Kripps knew that he and his brakeman, Cam Stones of Whitby, Ont., were in second place, just 0.12 seconds back from Francesco Friedrich and Thorsten Margis of Germany.

But the Germans hadn't lost a race all season.

"Friedrich and Margis were in a league of their own on the starts there, so pretty tough to catch. But we were just trying to be really consistent," Kripps said.

"(At the start line) I was thinking clear mind, be free, let the sled run and be relentless."

Kripps and Stones posted a blistering 51.34 second run for a combined four-run time of three minutes 25.13 seconds.

The time earned them a silver medal. They were 0.59 seconds behind the Germans.

Kripps, a 32-year-old native of Summerland, B.C., is used to racing Friedrich. The pair tied for gold in the two-man event at the Pyeongchang Olympics last year.

While the Canadian team has seen athletes take breaks or retire after the Games, the Germans have not.

"The Germans don't have rebuild years," Kripps said. "They're steady. They have the fastest sleds, the best pushes and (Freidrich's) a great driver."

Freidrich said he took about 10 weeks off after the Olympics but was eager to get back to competing.

"I want to train harder to be the one who the other guys must beat and I think I did it good," the 28-year-old said.

"That's our job here on the circuit, to be the hunted."

Saturday final race was an emotional one for Edmonton's Neville Wright. The veteran brakeman and pilot Chris Spring of Calgary finished fourth with a time of 3:25.68, tied with Brits Brad Hall and Nick Gleeson.

But as Wright saw Friedrich's score posted, he buried his head in his arms. The time meant he wouldn't receive reach the podium in his final two-man bobsled event.

"This is still happy ending because I finished how I wanted to finish, on my terms," he said. "It would have been nice to finish with a medal but I'm happy that I still had an opportunity to compete for Canada."

The 38-year-old will retire from after competing at the four-man bobsled event next weekend.

Wright said it will be a "full-circle moment," because he'll be racing once again at Whistler, the same track where he first competed in 2009.

Canada's Nick Poloniato and Ben Coakwell did not qualify for the final heat after a crash during their second run on Friday.

The top Canadians in women's bobsled on Saturday were Christine de Bruin of Stony Plain, Alta., and brakeman Kristen Bujnowski of Mount Brydges, Ont. The pair sat in fourth with a combined time of 1:46.03 seconds after two heats.

De Bruin said her second run of the day — a 53.12 second effort — wasn't the greatest because she skidded coming out of the second corner.

Germany's Mariama Jamanka finished first Saturday, posting a time of 1:45.22.

The reigning Olympic champion and her brakeman, Annika Drazek, broke a course record on their first run with a time of 52.64 seconds.

But the new milestone didn't hold up for long. Americans Elana Meyers Taylor and Lake Kwaza smashed that time with a 52.48 first run. The pair sat in second place after Saturday's races.

Canada's Alysia Rissling and Cynthia Appiah were in eighth, while teammates Kori Hol and Melissa Lotholz sat in 16th.

Lotholz is a veteran brakeman with the Canadian bobsled team but opted to try driving after finishing seventh at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

"Whatever happens at the Olympics — whether your wildest dreams come true or it's a complete catastrophe or somehow both — you go through this kind of 'It's come and gone' kind of feeling," she said.

"It's a journey, I think. And it's exciting moving into this new (Olympic cycle) to play a different role."

Lotholz is back to her previous job as a brakeman at the world championships in Whistler, but is embracing a new role, mentoring Hol.

"I've been around the block a couple of times," Lotholz said. "So it's exciting to get to be able to share that experience and use my experience to encourage here and just to get into the zone."

Hol is competing in her first world championships just a week after she made her world cup debut in Calgary. Having a veteran in the sled is a big help, she said.

"I think it's a huge advantage to have her in the back with me and have her share some of her experience with me," said the native of Richmond, B.C.

Hol admitted to being "extremely nervous" in Calgary but said she was much more calm on Saturday, the first of two days of world championship competition in Whistler.

"This weekend it's a very different feeling," the 26-year-old said. "I'm very comfortable here, just because it's my home ice."

The women are set to return to the track on Sunday for their final two heats.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

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