Host City: Lake Placid, United States
Venue(s): Mt. Van Hoevenberg Recreation Area, Lake Placid
Date Started: February 15, 1980
Date Finished: February 16, 1980
Format: Four runs, total time determined placement.
Although confidence was high in the American camp that they could threaten the favourites it was firmly expected that the medals would be decided between the sleds from East Germany, West Germany and Switzerland. Switzerland’s Erich Schärer (1978 and 1979) and Hans Hiltebrand (1977) were the most recent world champions, East Germany were reigning Olympic champions and West Germany I and II had filled the silver and bronze positions in the previous year’s world championship.
Both members of their 1976 Olympic champion crew returned for East Germany but with a twist. In Innsbruck Bernhard Germeshausen had been the brakeman in Meinhard Nehmer’s sled but by Lake Placid he was piloting East Germany II and proved the equal of his former partner.
Schärer and Benz, who despite being world champions were designated as Switzerland II, started the competition brilliantly and led by half a second on the first run. Though Germeshausen gained time on run 2 Schärer consolidated his advantage on the third run and avoided any disasters on the final descent to run out a comfortable winner. Behind him a contest between the two GDR bobs for silver saw a victory for the pupil over the master as Bernhard Germeshausen and Hans-Jürgen Gerhardt’s East Germany II edged the senior crew of Nehmer and Musiol.
This event marked the first Olympic appearance of Hans Hiltebrandt. The Swiss would appear at every Winter Games as either pilot or coach between 1980 and 1998 and as one of the world’s leading bobsleigh designers, bobs bearing his name have appeared in international competition for over a decade.