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 advantage was whittled away each time and they took silver, seven hundredths of a second behind in three minutes, 22.52 seconds.
Canada’s Kaillie Humphries, who won gold in the last two Games and started the day in fifth, added a bronze to her collection with new partner Phylicia George, who took up the sport only six months ago, 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 Jamanka, a former hammer thrower without a notable bobsleigh victory to her name, 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.
Jamanka appeared stunned when she finished and looked at the scoreboard and was similarly non-plussed in a news conference an hour later.
“I still can’t believe that we won,” she said. “It is our first victory. I’m absolutely over the moon.
“We were concentrated on being in the top five, so we didn’t really have any concrete goals. I was quite relaxed.”
Jamanka’s win continued a great performance at the sliding center by Germany, who have won five golds, two silver and two bronze from eight events and are among the favorites for victory in the four-man bob on Sunday.
If Meyers Taylor was disappointed at coming so close to gold again after missing it by a 10th of a second in Sochi, she certainly didn’t show it.
“Me and Lauren gave everything we had to the last hundredth and we won a silver medal,” she said.
“It means absolutely everything to me. To have been at such a low point earlier this year and not sure if I want to slide any more but to come back and win a silver - I am through the roof.”
Humphries really enjoyed the experience of racing with a new partner.
“To be able to have a team mate that wants it that hard and is willing to do anything and everything that gave me a lot of confidence,” she said.
Further down the field Humphries’ former gold-winning partner Heather Moyse finished sixth with new team mate Alysia Rissling.
Crowd-funded duo Mica McNeill and Mica Moore were 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.
Nigeria fared even worse as the first African country to compete in bobsleigh at the Games finished last, a massive seven seconds behind the winners.
Additional reporting by James Pearson, editing by Ed Osmond