'Superman' Dukurs defends world title
Latvia’s Martins Dukurs blew the field away to defend his world title, beating his nearest rival by more than two seconds in Lake Placid.
Dukurs stormed down the track in all four of the heats to record a time of three minutes and 37.09 seconds, 2.08 seconds ahead of German Frank Rommel.
Rommel, second to Dukurs in the two of the last three World Cup seasons, was forced to settle for silver.
“This is unbelievable. My season, perfect. Just one lost race,” said Dukurs, nicknamed 'Superman' by Latvian fans.
“I didn’t expect so good results. I stitched together four good runs and I’m happy with that.”
New Zealand’s Ben Sandford took bronze after a strong third run saw him overtake American Matt Antoine, to become just the second Southern Hemisphere athlete to win a medal in skeleton, luge or bobsled at the Winter Olympic or World Championship level after his uncle Bruce won skeleton gold at the 1992 World Championships in Calgary.
“It feels amazing,” said Sandford, who finished 17th in World Cup with one podium, a silver at St Moritz, Switzerland.
“It’s funny. It’s 20 years to the month since he won in Calgary, and he was instrumental in getting me into this sport and helping me develop as an athlete. It’s fantastic that me and New Zealand can be back on the podium."
Leading by 0.69 seconds after Friday night’s first two heats, Dukurs, who had won 12 out of his last 13 races heading into the World Championships, wrapped up the gold medal after the third run of 54.34 seconds.
Rommel could only manage an error-riddled third run of 55.21s in the snowy conditions at Mount Van Hoevenberg, to trail by 1.56s and essentially hand Dukurs the gold medal.
With only three athletes within two seconds of Dukurs heading into the final heat, only a crash could deprive the Latvian of the gold medal. But Dukurs, whose only loss of the season came in Konigssee, successfully navigated the course without any trouble to secure the title.