Olympic Dream Over for U.S. Luge Team

With the flip of the sled and the spilling of bodies onto the ice at the notorious 14th turn, the Olympic dream of the United States' top luge team came to an abrupt end Wednesday.

And so might have ended a partnership that has flourished for most of the nine years Mark Grimmette and Brian Martin have spent on the sled.

Grimmette and Martin, bronze medalists in 1998 at the Nagano Olympics and silver medalists in 2002 at Salt Lake City, will go home empty-handed after their crash during the first of two runs at the Turin Games.

Andreas and Wolfgang Linger, brothers from Austria, won the gold with a two-run combined time of 1:34.497. Andre Florschuetz and Torsten Wustlich of Germany claimed the silver in 1:34.807, and Gerhard Plankensteiner and Oswald Haselreider of Italy earned the bronze in 1:34.930.

The United States' other entry of Preston Giffall and Dan Joye was eighth in 1:35.410.

Competing on a tricky track they acknowledged not feeling comfortable with -- they weren't alone; there were three crashes Wednesday -- Grimmette and Martin were in control and with fair speed until they went high on the 14th, the site of numerous crashes since the track opened. They slid sideways and turned over.

In a flash, gone was the opportunity to become the first male Winter Olympians to win medals in three consecutive Winter Games, and to prove to the world that the United States was becoming a force in a sport dominated by Germany.

Since luge became an Olympic discipline in 1964, U.S. doubles teams have won only four medals -- two silver and two bronze -- all during the last two Olympics. Germany doubles teams have won 17 medals, nine of them gold.

After their crash, Grimmette and Martin were OK physically but appeared stunned to have had their quest for Olympic gold end so quickly. Luge sliders are disqualified if they do not cross the finish line on their sleds.

Grimmette, 35, the front driver from Muskegon, Mich., who does most of the steering with his legs, blamed himself for the crash, saying he needed to bring the sled into the turn a little earlier. His voice then became shaky and he turned away.

Martin, 32, the back driver from Palo Alto, Calif., who basically follows the lead of the front driver, told reporters, "It's a tough thing to come up on the wrong side of the line and stop short, but that's what happens some days."

He then said the Olympic failure "unfortunately was kind of in the trend of a season" during which "we had only a handful of bright spots here and there."

Asked if it were too soon to speculate as to whether the team would remain together and push for an appearance at the 2010 Vancouver Games, both were quick to acknowledge that it was too early, which seemed to indicate that perhaps it wasn't.

Pete Thomas is a sportswriter with the Los Angeles Times, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.