When you mention bobsleigh in England," said a London sporting man one day last week in Innsbruck, "most of us think you're talking about a character out of Dickens. It is not, as you may suppose, a subject of national significance." The man spoke too soon. Overnight two British bobsledders whipped the famed Italian drivers Eugenio Monti and Sergio Zardini and won an Olympic gold medal—the third for Britain since the Winter Olympics began in 1924. The two men who did the trick may someday wind up as statues in Hyde Park—with one statue wearing wire-mesh saucepan scourers on his boots.
Two more proper British heroes one could not imagine. The brakeman with the long, wavy pompadour cuts perhaps the more dashing figure. His name is Captain the Hon. T. Robin Dixon, and, at 28, he is a parachutist with the Grenadier Guards. Robin is the son and heir of Lord Glentoran of Belfast, Northern Ireland's Minister in the Senate. He wears the wire scourers under the toes of his soccer boots for traction during the bobsled push-off. "I buy them by the dozen," he says, "and get a penny off that way."
Robin went to Eton, naturally, and married the niece of Commander Richard Colville, press secretary to Her Majesty the Queen.
Antony J. D. Nash, the driver, who peered through contact lenses while negotiating the hurtling, mile-long sled chute at Igls, is 27 years old, balding and a bachelor. He was raised in Little Missenden, Buckinghamshire, where he manufactures light machinery. "He is the sort of man, don't you know," says an acquaintance, "one might visualize at home with pipe in mouth, spaniel on lap and Izaak Walton rather than a Fleming in his hands." Nash and Dixon came to Innsbruck in high spirits but low hopes. Monti had won the world two-man title six times, and the Britons were not a bit fooled by the unremarkable times he set during practice runs.
The bobsled race was run in four heats spread over Friday and Saturday. The British, amazingly, finished second behind Canada in the first heat, while Monti was an unbelievable fifth. Thanks to Monti's sportsmanship in stripping a bolt from his sled to replace one that had sheared off theirs, Nash and Dixon made a superb second run and found themselves in first place for the day. Monti was third behind Zardini.
Well, people were beginning to think, maybe the British did have a chance after all. But when, on the final run, they took the wicked S turn called the Witches' Kettle too high, Nash and Dixon went off disconsolate to the nearest café to stiffen their upper lips.
It was from there they had to be summoned to watch Monti's desperately fast but not quite good enough finish.
Robin Dixon's wife, on hand in Innsbruck, said it for all the world when she was offered congratulations by a game and smiling Eugenio Monti. She spread her hands helplessly. "I cannot say I am sorry, and yet...."