"This is a plaything," he said. "We are trying to get this meet stopped. If not stopped, we want to call it merely an international meet, not a world championship. Running a sloppy course for 1,000 meters does not prove anything.
"It could be a fabulous course," he said. "But the entrances and exits are flat and throw the sleds off line at the most crucial points. Remember, a two-man bob is exerting 40 tons per square inch of pressure on the ice and using only a small portion of its runner. The slightest mistake in course design can throw it off."
America's Fred Fortune, 45-year-old racing veteran and 1948 Olympic bronze medalist, figured the Col de Poutran might make a fine addition to Disneyland. "It is only dangerous because of the flat spots on the inrun and outrun. The throats between the curves are supposed to blend in and throw a sled from one curve to the other, but here you come off a curve and hit this flat area and you go flying into the next curve."
"The half mile at Lake Placid is faster," said Two-man Brakeman Philip (Bear) Duprey of Raybrook, N.Y. He stood at the starting point and buckled on a padded leather girdle as a kidney protector and donned thick leather elbow guards. "Here all I have to do is hang on for the ride." Would he grab the brake on the way down? Duprey scowled. "Hit the brake? We're here to race. I wouldn't think of it."
At the end of the first run, the bobsled meet had shaped up the way the handicappers figured: Italy's Monti and Brake-man Siorpaes were leading, Austria's Erwin Thaler and Reinhold Durnthaler were second, Britain's Nash and Robin Dixon lay seventh, but only .66 second off the leader, and America's Howard Clifton and James Crall were eighth, just .86 second off.
Then came Black Wednesday. The ice, under the lights, lay glittering sickly, chopped and rutted. Monti crashed, kicking up a plume of shaved ice and gouging a new slash near the finish line. "I had a beautiful run until that curve," he growled. "Then I hit that bump, and the sled went wild."
Back at the start, the other sledders shook their heads. If Monti couldn't make it down, could they?
Nash and Dixon could not. They came roaring off Vercors, and everybody winced. They could see the accident taking shape. There was another explosion of ice. Another sled bucked off its riders higher up on the course, and still another, jouncing over the ruts, seemed to disintegrate at the finish line—spewing its rear runners and slamming from wall to wall, with the riders practically finishing on the seats of their pants.
With only one sled to go, the Americans stood at the bottom as sure medal winners. "Who cares about the medal," said Clifton. "All right, so we won a medal. All we want right now is for everybody to get off this hill alive. Pray for this last sled."
The sled made it. It was over. Austrians Thaler and Durnthaler had won, Italians Nevio de Zordo and Edoardo Tinter de Martin were second and America's Clifton and Crall were third. The other American sled, with Bob Said and Duprey, was ninth, and everybody still had all their fingers and toes.