Melbardis wins 4-man bob world title for Latvia's 1st gold

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IGLS, Austria (AP) Driver Oskars Melbardis of Latvia led his team to the four-man bobsled world title on Sunday for his country's maiden gold medal.

Having started in 19th position and still back in seventh after Saturday's two heats, Melbardis and Daumants Dreiskens, Arvis Vilkaste and Janis Strenga completed an unlikely comeback on the final day.

They won the last two runs to edge Germany's Francesco Friedrich, with Candy Bauer, Gregor Bermbach and Thorsten Margis, by 0.04 seconds and win Latvia's first ever gold at bobsled world championships. Olympic silver medalist Melbardis had won bronze last year.

Rico Peter of Switzerland, teaming up with Janne van der Zijde, Thomas Amrhein and Simon Friedli, finished 0.22 behind to take the bronze, while two-time defending champion Maximilian Arndt of Germany was 0.49 off the pace in seventh.

Friedrich led after setting a track record and winning both heats on the opening day. But he saw his 0.41-second advantage over Melbardis reduced to just 0.17 after the third heat, and made two steering mistakes in his final run to drop to second.

Friedrich teamed up with Margis last week to win the two-man competition, and was also part of the German team that took gold in the combined bosled and skeleton event.

Lamin Deen of Britain lost his sight on a medal when he crashed while holding second place in the third heat.

Trailing only Friedrich at the time, Deen's sled came too high in curve nine and tipped over. He and teammates Ben Simons, Bruce Tasker and Joel Fearon slid upside down for several hundred meters but escaped serious injuries.

Former Olympic and world champion Steven Holcomb of the United States also didn't qualify for the final heat, where only the top 20 were allowed to start. Holcomb's team failed to recover from messing up its start to Saturday's opening heat and was 2.09 seconds off the pace after three runs.

Earlier Sunday, Kaillie Humphries of Canada led her team to victory in a four-woman test event, the first ever such race staged by the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation.

With four teams competing over two heats, Humphries and her team of Cynthia Appiah, Kasha Lee, and Melissa Lotholz finished 0.76 ahead of Alysia Rissling of Canada, 0.83 ahead of Maria Adela Constantin of Romania, and 1.13 ahead of Elana Meyers Taylor of the United States.