By Rory Carroll
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) – Francesco Friedrich piloted his four-man bobsleigh team to the top of the timesheets with a blistering second run on Saturday to put Germany in a commanding lead heading into the final two runs of the competition a day later.
The multiple world champion, who won gold in the two-man bobsleigh on Monday, steered his sled to a 0.29 second lead over Won Yun-jong’s South Korean team, who enjoyed the support of a raucous hometown crowd at the Olympic Sliding Centre.
“It’s going very well today. We start good, we drive clean and yeah, we can go sleep good tonight I think,” the 27-year-old Friedrich told reporters.
Germany’s Nico Walther sits in third, 0.35 seconds behind his compatriot and just 0.06 adrift of the South Koreans.
Eric Franke, a member of Walther’s team, said he thought they could still get to the top of the podium, especially if they received some help from the leaders.
“Everything can happen in our sport,” he told reporters.
“If Francesco is doing a couple of bigger mistakes as we’ve seen in the two-man, not from him but from other pilots, then you can easily lose three and a half tenths. It is possible.”
Justin Kripps, who tied with Friedrich for gold in the two-man, carried his Canadian team to fourth, 0.58 seconds off the lead.
Germany’s Johannes Lochner, Latvia’s Oskars Melbardis and Switzerland’s Rico Peter were caught in a three-way tie for fifth, 0.66 back, with Austria’s Benjamin Maier lurking in eighth, 0.76 seconds off the lead.
It was a good day for Codie Bascue’s American team, who saw their sled jump from 12th to ninth position, 0.88 seconds behind Friedrich ahead of Sunday’s final.
Asked by reporters how he would feel if he had to share a second gold medal of the Games, Friedrich said he did not know and added that he can only hope to put forward his best performance on Sunday.
“We would see. I think here it can happen,” he said. “It’s all on that track. We must be good tomorrow and then we’ll see.”
(Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly/John O’Brien)