By Mitch Phillips
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) – Germany won the women’s Olympic bobsleigh gold medal on Wednesday after a steering masterclass by Mariama Jamanka earned her and partner Lisa Buckwitz their country’s first success in the event since 2006.
American Elana Meyers Taylor, who won silver four years ago and bronze in 2010, and partner Lauren Gibbs piled on the pressure with a succession of fast starts but their early advantage was whittled away each time and they took silver, seven hundredths of a second behind.
Canada’s Kaillie Humphries, who won gold in the last two Games, added a bronze to her collection with new partner Phylicia George, 0.44 seconds off the pace.
After winning gold in 2006 Germany missed out on the podium in the next two Games but it was Stephanie Schneider who was expected to lead their challenge in Pyeongchang.
She managed only fourth place, however, as 27-year-old former hammer thrower Jamanka stepped up to the plate.
Leading by seven hundredths from the first two rounds she laid down the gauntlet with a course record 50.49 seconds, only for Meyers Taylor to improve it with 50.46 to close the gap to four hundredths going into the final run.
Double world champion Meyers Taylor again delivered a smooth ride to pile the pressure on, but the Germans recovered from an early deficit to edge into a lead they maintained for the final few turns.
Both burst into tears when they saw their time, hugging each other before disappearing beneath a huddle of coaches and team officials.
Further down the field crowd-funded duo Mica McNeill and Mica Moore finished eighth, the best finish by a British women’s team and all the more impressive for their limited preparations.
The much-heralded Jamaican team, the country’s first to appear in the event, were unable to show any improvement from their 18th place overnight, finishing second-last in 19th.
They enjoyed the experience, however.
“We said we came here to do a job and that’s what we were going to focus on and be athletes and that’s what we did,” pilot Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian said.
After a terrible debut on Tuesday when they limped in more than three seconds off the pace, Nigeria brought in Ngozi Onwumere to partner Seun Adigun but it made little difference as the first African country to compete in bobsleigh at the Games finished 20th and last, seven seconds off the pace.
“I think this was just one of those days that you can’t really describe, full of all kinds of emotions,” Adigun said.
“Full of relief, full of history. We are just beyond happy with the opportunity to be blessed with that type of title. We just pray all of our resilience does foster some future athletes.”
(Reporting by editing Mitch Phillips, editing by Ed Osmond)