WHISTLER, B.C. — Lyndon Rush finally gave himself permission to smile Saturday, a full hour after crossing the finish line.
Well, sort of.
“They’re trying to cheer me up, because they think I’m crazy for being upset,” Rush said, motioning towards his Canada-1 sledmates. “Yeah, we won Olympic bronze, but I like racing, right?
“And when you come up short on the last heat, you’re mad.”
On Saturday, the native of Humboldt, Sask., missed out on silver medal by one-hundredth of a second in the Olympic four-man bobsled competition at the Whistler Sliding Centre.
And so the deeply religious country kid has four years to ponder the fraction of a second that got away. Four years to run the mental replay of a final run gone wrong.
With no way to turn back the clock.
“I did a big old banana going into corner 3,” Rush said, grasping for an explanation. “If I watched video, I could nitpick it probably a little bit more.
“But in my head, I’ll take it. That was a good run.”
The best four-man runs of the Games belonged to Steven Holcomb and his USA-1 sled known as the Night Train. The self-described computer geek broke a 62-year Olympic gold medal drought for the U.S. by demolishing the field with a combined time of three minutes 24:46 seconds.
“Hats off to those guys,” Rush said. “This is our backyard. We trained here. We had more runs. There’s no reason they should beat us like that.”
Andre Lange, of Germany, finished .38 seconds back of the Americans in a combined time of 3:24.84.
The two-time Olympic champion shaded Rush (3:24.85) by the slimmest of margins.
“That’s an expensive hundredth of a second,” Rush said. “We were just talking about that. That’s 5,000 bucks.”
The Canadian Olympic Committee’s money-for-medals program, officially known as the Athlete Excellence Fund, pays $20,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze.
The money goes to Rush and sledmates Lascelles Brown, of Calgary, Chris Le Bihan, of Calgary and Dave Bissett, of Edmonton.
This is Canada’s first Olympic medal in the four-man bobsled since Victor Emery rocketed to gold in the 1964 Winter Olympics
Pierre Lueders, of Edmonton, and the Canada-2 sled, came in fifth.
“For an older guy like myself, to compete in a home Olympics, it’s unbelievable,” Lueders, 39, said at what is likely the finish line for a career that spanned five appearances at the Winter Games. “I now know what the U.S. athletes were feeling in Salt Lake in 2002.”
He looked up at the red-clad crowd and smiled.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “That’s all I can say. Unbelievable.”
One of the most unbelievable stories of the Vancouver Games is Jesse Lumsden and his journey from rank bobsled beginner to Olympic brakeman in 11 months.
The Edmonton Eskimos tailback fought back tears Saturday as he walked through the mixed zone in front of Canada-2 sledmates Neville Wright, of Edmonton, and Justin Kripps, of Summerland, B.C.
“I feel like I just came out of a serious dogfight,” he said, his voice catching. “It’s tough to talk about. We wanted to be on the podium.”
Rush wanted the top spot on the podium, but he already showed signs Saturday of accepting his fate.
After all, he flipped the Canada-1 two-man sled last week and crossed the finish line upside down.
“That sucked,” Rush said. “That was garbage when we went over. This is much better. Get your four runs down. Finish in the medals. It’s good.”
Six sleds crashed Friday at the corner known as 50-50 for the odds of getting through upright.
Not one faltered Saturday.
“You can’t be spooked,” Rush said. “t’s a tough guy sport. It’s not a pansy sport. You’ve got to get back on the horse when you crash, because it is scary.”
Georgian luge athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili died during Olympic training Feb. 12 when he launched off his sled and smacked into a pole at corner 16.
After crashing in the two-man, Rush said the chance to race again in the four-man was the only thing keeping him sane.
Five teams pulled out of the four-man race including Dutch pilot Edwin van Balker, who backed out due to a “loss of confidence.”
“If you’re scared and you don’t get back, you’re not a bobsledder,” said Rush, who lives in Sylvan Lake, Alta. “You’re not at the World Cup level, because you’re not very good.
“You can’t be good and be a chicken.”
After crashing in the two-man, Rush openly mused about the possibility of retiring to spend more time with his wife and two daughters.
And now? After winning bronze and missing out on silver by a mere hundredth of a second?
“It makes me feel like I don’t want to retire,” he said. “I like racing bobsled. It’s fun. But I think I might have to move on. I’m 29 years old. I’m not a kid. I can’t go touring all over Europe all the time.
“But I’m not making that decision right now. Right now, there’s still emotion.”
And so much time to ponder the hundredth of a second that got away.