After the disastrous performance of Germany's two-man bob teams in Sochi, frustration and disappointment have created a frosty atmosphere. The standard of the actual equipment has come in for particular criticism.
Eighth-, 11th- and 15th-placed finishes for their teams mean Germany have their worst performance at the Olympics since 1956. For the first time in 20 years, Germany will not have a medal in the event. How did that happen?
Brake man Kevin Kuske, who four years ago at the Vancouver Games was an Olympic champion, told television station ARD that the standard of the team's equipment become an issue. "If our bob was a Formula One vehicle before, then maybe it is now now a Trabi [Trabant]," he said, referring to the mass-produced, low-budget vehicle that was so common in the former East Germany.
Germany coach Christoph Langen told fellow station ZDF: "If the boys would have at least made a few mistakes, then I'd say, 'Okay, that's why.' But what if an athlete really does everything right and still gets hammered?"
Another of Germany's bob athletes is Thomas Florschütz, who had won silver in Vancouver. He and Kuske finished in 11th place in Sochi - an unacceptable result. The bob device looked to be faring decently at the start, but time was then continuously lost. "It may well be only a material issue," said Florschütz. "I don't want complain about the FES (the Institute for Research and Development for Sports Equipment) or the device. We had the whole year to get it right, but we couldn't manage it. It's bad enough that we came here with such a device, which is not competitive. "
The FES is the state-funded institute for Research and Development of Sports Equipment, headquartered in Berlin. It is Germany's bob and sled maker and has built numerous bobs for Olympic champion in the past. But success has not come this season, and the criticism is getting louder. Disagreements had already existed between the bob makers on one side and the coaches and athletes on the other. Now, in the wake of the historic Olympic debacle at Sochi, differences have been made public.
FES the scapegoat?
FES Director Harald Schaale said he saw the disaster coming. "We are not satisfied that the focus is only on us. The bob projects are under the control of the association (the Bob and Sled Association of Germany, or BSD). We would have done some things differently," Schaale said Tuesday the news agency DPA. "Everyone needs to appraise their own involvement and ask if they really did everything they could for the project. I mean everyone - athletes, technicians, association trainers and trainers at home."
As a state-funded institution with 4.8-million euro ($6.6-million) grant, the FES serves 33 sports projects in twelve sports. "I think the communication between the association and FES must be better, simply because there have been too many disputes," said Germany's four-man bob athlete Maximilian Arndt.
Germany's teams could only cast envious looks at Alexander Zubkov, who was in a different league in Russia's two-man bob gold medal. The Russian, with Alexander Voevoda as his brakeman, outpointed fellow pilots Beat Hefti of Switzerland and Steven Holcomb of the United States. Zubkov did not have to concern himself with the quality of his equipment, while the German teams could not concern themselves with the medals.