Germany’s Andre Lange ends brilliant sliding career with silver medal in Olympic 4-man

By Tom Withers, AP
Saturday, February 27, 2010

Germany’s Andre Lange retires

WHISTLER, British Columbia — Germany’s Andre Lange decided four years ago that the Vancouver Games would be his final Olympics.

He slid out of them with a silver medal.

The only bobsled driver to win four Olympic golds, Lange’s brilliant racing career ended Saturday with a second-place finish in the four-man competition. The driver who had never been beaten inside the rings couldn’t catch USA-1 driver Steve Holcomb, ending a 62-year gold-medal drought for the Americans.

Lange edged Canada’s Lyndon Rush, beating him by .01 seconds with a sizzling final run. When Rush’s time flashed on the scoreboard, Lange and long-time teammate Kevin Kuske celebrated as if they had won a fifth gold.

“We just pulled ourselves together and slid down the track,” Lange said. “To be honest, I didn’t really think it would happen — but it did.”

Last week, the 36-year-old defended his title in the two-man event and was aiming to win his third straight gold in four-man following victories at Salt Lake in 2002 and Turin 2006. Holcomb may have denied him in his drive for five, but Lange left fulfilled.

“In these two weeks in Canada, I’ve experienced more than anyone can experience in a career,” he said.

Lange began his sliding career on a luge but switched to bobsled in his late teens. Superstitiously dying his hair a golden blond before big races, he dominated tracks all over the world, racking up world championships and World Cup titles.

But he made his biggest mark in the Olympics, becoming the first pilot to win four golds.

After screaming down the thrill ride that is the Whistler Sliding Center track and crossing the finish line, Lange knew his sliding days were over.

“When I stepped out of the sled, I had to take a deep breath and tears came to my eyes,” he said. “It feels like a huge burden has been lifted. A new life begins, a normal life and it’s scary.”

Lange wouldn’t be the first athlete to say he was quitting and then return to his sport. Lange, though, is certain he’ll never race again.

“No, there is nothing that could change my mind,” he said. “I’ve won so many titles. I stood up here in 2006 when this track was built and I know this would be a good place to retire.”

Following his last event, Lange walked through the media mixed zone wearing a hooded jacket. As always, his sledmates — Alexander Roedinger, Martin Putze and Kevin Kuske, the hulking brakeman and Lange’s teammate for each of his Olympic wins — were behind him.

They wore white T-shirts with gold letters that said: Thank You Andre For All The Famous Moments. The words encircled the image of a bear. Lange’s nickname is “barchen” — little bear in German.

He’s going into hibernation.

will not be displayed