WHISTLER (Reuters) - Jon Montgomery snatched gold in a thrilling climax to the men’s Olympic skeleton event on Friday to put a smile back on Canadian faces at the Whistler track.
Just two hours after a tearful Mellisa Hollingsworth apologized for “letting my country down” after blowing her chance of gold in the women’s race, Montgomery produced a perfect fourth run then watched Martins Dukurs self-destruct.
Latvian Dukurs held a 0.18 advantage going into the final run but cracked on the final corner just when his country’s first Winter Olympics gold looked to be in his grasp.
“That was what I was hoping for, that was what I set out to do at the top of the track before that fourth run,” Montgomery, who won by seven hundredths of a second, less time than a human being takes to blink, told reporters.
“I was happy with that performance. I said to myself ‘that’s gotta be close to good enough. That’s got to be close.’ I was biting my nails for sure.”
Dukurs and Montgomery had been locked in battle since Thursday’s first slide, both of them smashing course records, as the rest of the field scrapped amongst themselves for bronze.
Montgomery was 0.28 seconds behind after Thursday’s first run but chipped away at the deficit before launching his attack with a faultless descent in heat four.
It all proved too much for Dukurs.
“I started to realize that there was a possibility that I could win this race when he went late into nine and from that point those minus numbers got lower and lower until all of a sudden he was in the plus range. Then I lost my mind!”
Dukurs tried to hide his disappointment at the finish.
“I‘m a little bit disappointed with the last run. But not disappointed about the result,” said track rat from the Latvian sliding stronghold of Sigulda.
“I came here thinking the top three will be great. So I did that and I‘m happy. Jon’s been consistent and in training I saw that he’s smashing it down.”
Alexander Tretyakov of Russia took the bronze.
One of Canada’s other medal hopes Michael Douglas was disqualified before the third heat after being three minutes late taking his sledge for pre-race inspection.
Editing by Miles Evans