‘Superman’ lives up to his billing

  • 2012-02-29
  • By Jared Grellet

UNSTOPPABLE: Dukurs has become the second person in history to win two consecutive world championships.

RIGA - Martins Dukurs has cemented his spot amongst Latvia’s all-time great athletes by winning his second Skeleton World Championship title in as many years.
Carrying over his insatiable form from the FIBT Skeleton World Cup season, the 29-year-old Latvian blitzed his opponents in Lake Placid, N.Y. over the weekend to reclaim the World Championship title he first won in Konigssee, Germany last year.

Racing on the two-time former Olympic track, the man dubbed “Superman” by his opponents lived up to his namesake, seeing off the rest of the field by over two seconds over the course of four runs.
In a sport that is often decided by milliseconds, Dukurs achievements can best be put into perspective by noting that the next five racers home after the current Olympic silver medalist were divided by less than a second.
On the first run on Friday, Dukurs would finish in under 54 seconds, already opening a gap of 0.23 seconds between himself and German Frank Rommel.
Whilst slowing up on his second run, the gap between he and Rommel continued to grow, stretching out towards a full second.

Martins’ older brother Tomass also began Friday strongly, recording the third fastest time on his first run.
However, a mistake late on his second descent of the track would cost the 30-year-old dearly, seeing him only set the ninth quickest time, leaving him outside of a podium position going into the second day’s racing.
Whilst the action heated up for the remainder of the field on the second day and consistency became as issue for every other pilot, Martins remained rock steady at the top of the leader board, setting the quickest time on each of the two remaining runs.

At the end of his fourth run the reigning World Champion had developed a gap of an astonishing 2.08 seconds between himself and Rommel, whilst New Zealander Ben Sandford finished as a surprise bronze medalist.
It is the first time since Canadian Ryan Davenport went back-to-back in 1996 and 1997 and only the second time in history that the skeleton World Championship has been won by the same athlete for two consecutive seasons.
This latest accomplishment for Martins comes just two weeks after also successfully defending his world cup circuit title, earning a rare three-peat of World Cup overall victories.

The recipient of the Latvian Order of the Three Stars has now stood atop the podium in 13 of his last 14 events, unquestionably placing him amongst the most dominant athletes currently competing across all sports.
 “In my country, second place is not a place for me,” Dukurs was reported as saying in the Wall Street Journal, adding. “They’re just waiting for me to win, and that’s tough. I’m trying. Big, big pressure. I need to find some way to get out of all this.”

Now all that remains for the Riga-native is Olympic gold, something he is aiming to claim in Sochi, Russia in 2014.
At the previous Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, Dukurs was pipped by local favorite Jon Montgomery.
In the mean time, the elder Dukurs, Tomass, never fully recovered from the hiccup on his second run on Friday, eventually finishing tied for fifth spot with American Matthew Antoine; 2.66 seconds behind younger brother Martins.

Also taking place on the same track over the weekend was the FIBT four-man bob World Championships.
Latvia’s best hopes lay with young pilot Oskars Melbardis, who has this season superseded his older peer Edgars Maskalans to become Latvia’s number one bobsled driver.
However the weekend proved disastrous for the reigning junior world champion.
Sitting in sixth position following his first of four runs, disaster struck on Latvia 2’s second run with the sled turning on its side late in the run, leaving Melbardis and his teammates, Helvijs Lusis, Arvis Vilkaste and Janis Strenga sitting 20th out of 23 teams.

When the teams returned to the track for their third and fourth runs on Saturday, the 23-year-old and his teammates were notable absentees at the start line.
With Melbardis out, it was left up to Maskalans, Daumants Dreiskens, Ugis Zalims and Intars Dambis to try and record Latvia’s first podium finish since Janis Minins lead Latvia to a bronze medal on the same track in 2009.
Yet despite setting the third quickest time on their third descent of the track, Maskalans and his Latvia 1 crew never truly threatened for a podium position, ending the weekend in sixth position; 1.37 seconds behind USA 1 piloted by Steven Holcomb.

A weekend previous in the two-man bob World Championship, Melbardis, who was piloting Latvia 1 with Dreiskins as his brakeman, finished sixth overall, 0.57 seconds behind winner Steven Holcomb of the USA.
Maskalans piloted Latvia 2 to a disappointing 16th place, 1.24 seconds behind Hefti.
Latvia 3, piloted by Ugis Zalims, failed to qualify for a second run, finishing the championship in 23rd position overall.