Former Soldier Drives U.S. to Bobsled Gold
By Tim Hipps
Special to American Forces Press Service
WHISTLER, British Columbia, Mar. 1, 2010 Former U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program bobsledder Steven Holcomb ended Team USA’s 62-year gold medal drought in Olympic bobsled competition by driving Justin Olsen, Steve Mesler and Curtis Tomasevicz to victory in the four-man event Feb. 27 at Whistler Sliding Centre here.
Former Army World Class Athlete Program bobsledder Steven Holcomb, front right, leads "The Night Train" team of Justin Olsen, Steve Mesler and Curtis Tomasevicz to a start time of 4.77 seconds in the third heat of the Olympic four-man bobsled event in Whistler, British Columbia, Feb. 27, 2010. The quartet won the first U.S. Olympic gold medal in the sport in 62 years. U.S. Army photo by Tim Hipps
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Holcomb, 29, of Park City, Utah, piloted “The Night Train” sled designed by former NASCAR driver Geoff Bodine down the fastest bobsled track in the world to a four-heat combined time of 3 minutes, 24.46 seconds. They lowered the track record in each of their first two runs Feb. 26, leaving it at 50.86 seconds.
“It’s incredible,” Holcomb said. “We’ve been working so hard the last four years, and it’s finally paid off. It’s kind of overwhelming. It’s been stressful, but awesome, kind of all over the place.”
Five-time Olympic medalists Andre Lange and Kevin Kuske teamed with Alexander Roediger and Martin Putze aboard Germany 1 to win the silver medal with a time of 3:24.84. The Canada 1 quartet of Lyndon Rush, Chris Le Bihan, David Bissett and Lascelles Brown claimed the bronze in 3:24.85, marking the first time in 46 years Canadian bobsledders have medaled at the Olympics.
Team USA’s .38 margin of victory is considered a landslide in the sport.
“We came out here to show we’re the best team in the world,” Holcomb said. “It was a full team effort. We have fun together, and that’s why we come out and dominate.”
Team USA 1 blasted out of the blocks with start times of 4.75, 4.73, 4.77 and 4.76 for runs of 50.89, 50.86, 51.19 and 51.52 seconds.
“We had four great starts and four great runs,” Holcomb said. “We started the weekend with the start record, which was huge. We wanted to make a statement and make sure they knew we were here to play.”
Warmer temperatures slowed the track by nearly a second for Feb. 27’s final two heats. Heavy snowfall during the first two heats the day before contributed to six crashes, including USA 2, driven by WCAP bobsled pilot Sgt. John Napier with WCAP brakeman 1st Lt. Chris Fogt, Chuck Berkeley and Steve Langton aboard.
Team USA physicians convinced Napier to bypass the final two heats because of limited neck mobility from the crash.
“This really hurts,” Napier said as he watched Holcomb’s third run on television monitors at the finish line. “Yesterday was my last race of the season.”
U.S. bobsled head coach Brian Shimer, a five-time Olympian, was not overly concerned.
“I told John that he did an awesome job and that this is just the beginning,” said Shimer, a 2002 Olympic bronze medalist. “He has a bright future ahead of him, and I’m proud to be his coach. Their team had a big start yesterday and they were flying down the course, so this is really hard for them to take. But we look forward to a great future for John in this sport.
“He may be the one to break my record of five Olympics,” Shimer continued, “and I hope I’m able to share his success with him in the upcoming years.”
Army National Guard Outstanding Athlete Program Sgt. Mike Kohn drove to 13th place with Jamie Moriarty, Bill Schuffenhauer and Nick Cunningham aboard USA 3 in 3:27.32.
“I’m thankful they kept fighting, because I kept fighting,” said Kohn, 37, of Chantilly, Va., who plans to retire from the sled and deploy soon to Afghanistan with his National Guard unit. “We’re just thankful we got down safely.
“It’s been more than a difficult race; it’s been a difficult season for us,” he added. “The moral of the story is, ‘Keep fighting, because you never know what’s going to happen.’”
(Tim Hipps works in the U.S. Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command public affairs office.)