Francesco Friedrich wants to be the best bobsledder in history. He may already be.

Francesco Friedrich
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Amid the recent chatter about sports GOATs, German bobsledder Francesco Friedrich hones his craft in Altenberg, site of the two-week world championships that finish this weekend.

Every run down an icy chute, every piece of conditioning, every second of studying tracks is a step closer to a goal that Friedrich may have already reached.

“He wants to be the greatest in bobsled history,” said older brother David.

David is considerably responsible for Friedrich’s success, which may have crescendoed on Super Bowl Sunday.

Friedrich won a record-breaking 10th world championship, taking the two-man event by 2.05 seconds, the largest margin in at least 15 years (since times are readily available online) and greater than the margin separating second place from 16th place.

This Saturday and Sunday in the prized four-man event, Friedrich bids to sweep both titles at a record-extending fifth consecutive global championship (Olympics and worlds).

“Bobsledding is 99 percent doing other things than your sport,” Friedrich said before worlds, noting the strength training, the mental prep and even gaining sponsors and finding the right push athletes to fill sleds for competition runs that total less than an hour over the course of a season. “The races are the last part of the puzzle.”

David was the first piece. The native of Saxony took up bobsled at 18. A year in, he crashed a four-man sled on his home track of Altenberg, losing consciousness and breaking his helmet.

David was placed in a coma for three weeks. German media at the time reported his life was not in danger.

The next year, Francesco followed his brother into bobsled.

“We didn’t consider to quit bobsled after the crash,” David wrote in an email. “We already know that such crashes could happen.”

Another crash happened months later. This time, the younger Friedrich was driving. David was the brakeman and got the worse of it. He had a broken vertebra and ultimately retired.

“In the beginning it was difficult for Franz,” David wrote, “but the X-rays showed us that it was an injury from the crash one year before.”

Friedrich continued on. The retirement of four-time Olympic champion Andre Lange in 2010 helped open the door for Friedrich to make his world championships debut in 2011. He placed 11th in the two-man, worst of the four sleds for Germany, the most successful nation in the sport’s history.

The next year, Friedrich placed fourth in the two-man. It was the last time he left a worlds without a gold medal.

“He is more powerful than many brakemen,” David, now a German junior skeleton coach, wrote. “Losing a race is his biggest motivation.”

That made what happened at the Sochi Olympics particularly moving. Friedrich was part of a German bobsled program that went medal-less at an Olympics for the first time in 50 years. He vowed, on the final day of the Games, that it would never happen again on his watch.

“From this point, I started to train harder, I think about the [mental] material more,” he said. “I have this whole thing more in my mind. All my decisions are to be the best, I think.”

They were the right decisions, resulting in historic dominance.

Starting in 2015, Friedrich competed in 13 Olympic or world championships events, winning 11 golds, one silver and placing fourth once. He ran his World Cup wins tally to 52, most for a male or female driver in history (breaking the record held by countrywoman Sandra Kiriasis, who did so with one event, not two, available for women).

This year, he won 15 of 16 World Cups and last week broke the record for world titles held by the man long considered the GOAT — Italian Eugenio Monti. Next year, he can become the first man to sweep two- and four-man titles at back-to-back Olympics (Kaillie Humphries won back-to-back two-woman titles in 2010 and 2014).

“Franz is a professor in bobsled,” David said. “He wants to leave nothing to chance.”

Friedrich is still just 30. He is meticulous. He is humble, helping find sponsors for other bobsledders. And looking for an adrenaline rush, if not in a sled, then chasing speed on a bike or in a car.

Friedrich has studied the legends who came before him, including Lange and Christoph Langen. (He said he has never seen video of Monti’s championships in the 1950s and ’60s, when bobsled was a technologically different sport.)

“My mentality is to pick from all the best,” Friedrich said. “I see them all. I see how they slide. I ask them what they do to be fast. I picked altogether from all the best. I go my own way, but I take some things from that.”

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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Noah Lyles runs personal best and is coming for Usain Bolt’s world record

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Noah Lyles ran a personal-best time in the 60m on Saturday, then reaffirmed record-breaking intentions for the 100m and, especially, the 200m, where Usain Bolt holds the fastest times in history.

Lyles, the world 200m champion, won the 60m sprint in 6.51 seconds at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston, clipping Trayvon Bromell by two thousandths in his first top-level meet of the year. Bromell, the world 100m bronze medalist, is a past world indoor 60m champion and has a better start than Lyles, which is crucial in a six-second race.

But on Saturday, Lyles ran down Bromell and shaved four hundredths off his personal best. It bodes well for Lyles’ prospects come the spring and summer outdoor season in his better distances — the 100m and 200m.

“This is the moment I’ve been working, like, seven years for,” he said. “We’re not just coming for the 200m world record. We’re coming for all the world records.”

Last July, Lyles broke Michael Johnson‘s 26-year-old American record in the 200m, winning the world title in 19.31 seconds. Only Bolt (19.19) and fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake (19.26) have run faster.

Lyles has since spoken openly about targeting Bolt’s world record from 2009.

How does an indoor 60m time play into that? Well, Lyles said that his success last year sprung from a strong indoor season, when he lowered his personal best in the 60m from 6.57 to 6.56 and then 6.55. He followed that by lowering his personal best in the 200m from 19.50 to 19.31.

He believes that slicing an even greater chunk off his 60m best on Saturday means special things are on the horizon come the major summer meets — the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in July (on the same Oregon track where he ran the American 200m record) and the world championships in Budapest in August.

After focusing on the 200m last year, Lyles plans to race both the 100m and the 200m this year. He has a bye into the 200m at world championships, so expect him to race the 100m at USATF Outdoors, where the top three are in line to join world champ Fred Kerley on the world team.

Lyles’ personal best in the 100m is 9.86, a tenth off the best times from Kerley, Bromell and 2019 World 100m champ Christian Coleman. Bolt is in his own tier at 9.58.

Also Saturday, Grant Holloway extended a near-nine-year, 50-plus-race win streak in the 60m hurdles, clocking 7.38 seconds, nine hundredths off his world record. Olympic teammate Daniel Roberts was second in 7.46. Trey Cunningham, who took silver behind Holloway in the 110m hurdles at last July’s world outdoor championships, was fifth in 7.67.

Aleia Hobbs won the women’s 60m in 7.02 seconds, one week after clocking a personal-best 6.98 to become the third-fastest American in history after Gail Devers and Marion Jones (both 6.95). Hobbs, 26, placed sixth in the 100m at last July’s world championships.

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, the Olympic and world 400m hurdles champion competing for the first time since August, and Jamaican Shericka Jackson, the world 200m champion, were ninth and 10th in the 60m heats, just missing the eight-woman final.

In the women’s pole vault, Bridget Williams, seventh at last year’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, upset the last two Olympic champions — American Katie Moon and Greek Katerina Stefanidi. Williams won with a 4.63-meter clearance (and then cleared 4.71 and a personal-best 4.77). Stefanidi missed three attempts at 4.63, while Moon went out at 4.55.

The indoor track and field season continues with the Millrose Games in New York City next Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on NBC, NBCSports.com/live, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.

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Birk Irving, last man on Olympic team, extends breakout season with Mammoth win

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One year ago, Birk Irving was the last man to make the four-man U.S. Olympic ski halfpipe team. Since, he continued to climb the ranks in arguably the nation’s strongest discipline across skiing and snowboarding.

Irving earned his second World Cup win this season, taking the U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, California, on Friday.

Irving posted a 94-point final run, edging Canadian Brendan Mackay by one point. David Wise, the two-time Olympic champion who won his fifth X Games Aspen title last Sunday, was third.

A tribute was held to 2015 World champion Kyle Smaine, a U.S. halfpipe skier who died in an avalanche in Japan last Sunday.

“We’re all skiing the best we have because we’re all skiing with Kyle in our hearts,” Irving said, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “We’re skiing for him, and we know he’s looking down on us. We miss you Kyle. We love you. Thank you for keeping us safe in the pipe today.”

Irving also won the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colorado, on Dec. 17. Plus, the 23-year-old from Colorado had his best career X Games Aspen finish last Sunday, taking second.

The next major event is the world championships in Georgia (the country, not the state) in early March. Irving was third at the last worlds in 2021, then fifth at the Olympics last February.

The U.S. has been the strongest nation in men’s ski halfpipe since it debuted at the Olympics in 2014. Wise won the first two gold medals. Alex Ferreira won silver and bronze at the last two Olympics. Aaron Blunck is a world champion and X Games champion.

Irving is younger than all of them and has beaten all of them at multiple competitions this season.

New Zealand’s Nico Porteous, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, hasn’t competed since the Games after undergoing offseason knee surgery.

In snowboarding events at Mammoth, Americans Julia Marino and Lyon Farrell earned slopestyle wins by posting the top qualification scores. The finals were canceled due to wind.

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