Happy Homecoming for Holcomb
The Steve Holcomb story is starting to become the stuff legends are made of.
Like a blockbuster movie, here’s how it goes: Holcomb gets a job at the newly built Olympic bobsled track literally in his backyard and decides to give it a try. He toils in the shadows of his medal-winning teammates for years, just waiting for a breakthrough. Finally, he goes from obscurity to hometown hero as he wins a World Cup race at his home track in 2006, then goes on to win the overall World Cup award for the year. This year, he returned to win not one, but two World Cup races. That’s’ right, cue the dramatic music, because the Holcomb’s story keeps getting better.
This year’s script began on a snowy Friday night during the two-man World Cup bobsled race at the Utah Olympic Park. Holcomb entered the second run of the competition in second place behind Germany’s Thomas Florschuetz and Mirco Paetzold. After putting in the fastest run yet, Holcomb and brakeman Curt Tomacevicz (Shelby, Neb.) could only wait and hope that their combined time of one minute and 37.01 seconds would hold. The Germans had a few high turns and Holcomb emerged victorious. Longtime pals and old school chums flooded into the finish area to give high-fives to Holcomb.
"My coach comes up to me before the race and goes, ‘Whatever you do, just try and stay out of the snow,’" said Holcomb, smirking. "I told him it would be a little hard, considering there were three inches of snow on the track."
Holcomb said he and Tomasevicz were able to work around Mother Nature.
"The weather played a little bit of a factor, but it didn’t affect me a whole lot," Holcomb said "Curt did an awesome job. It’s hard to push in this kind of weather."
Holcomb and Tomasevicz turned in runs of 48.49 and 48.42. Germany finished with runs of 48.47 and 48.70 for a combined total time of 1:37.17. Austrians Wolfgang Stampfer and Johannes Wipplinger took third with runs of 48.59 and 48.69 for a combined finish of 1:37.28. American John Napier (Schenectady, N.Y.) took the place of an injured Mike Kohn in the second U.S. sled for a 15th-place finish and combined total time of 1:37.96. Parkite Stephan Bosch finished out of the top 20 in the first run and did not move on to the second.
The next evening proved to be more of the same, only this time with more men in Holcomb’s sled. Still battling heavy snow on Saturday, Holcomb and his crew of Brock Kreitzburg (Akron, Ohio), Pavle Jovanovic (Tom’s River, N.J.) and Steve Mesler (Calgary, Alberta) turned in a second-place finish in the first run, behind the German foursome of Andre Lange, Rene Hoppe, Kevin Kuske and Martin Putze in the four-man World Cup race. Again, Holcomb anxiously waited in the leader position for the German sled to make its way down the track. And again, Germany didn’t have enough and Holcomb grabbed his second win of the weekend, sweeping first place in the men’s bobsled events.
"It was pretty nerve-wracking," Holcomb said after the race. "Andre doesn’t make mistakes, so you can’t wait for him go down and say, ‘Oh, where is he going to mess up?’" He won’t. You have to beat him ahead of time."
Lange and his crew finished with a combined time of 1:35.14 after runs of 47.53 and 47.61, just seconds behind Holcomb who turned in runs of 47.54 and 47.51 to give them the winning time of 1:35.05.
This time around, a roar erupted from a large group of Holcomb’s family gathered at the base of the finish dock.
"It’s especially sweet to win at home," Holcomb said.
Holcomb said a lot of his success was due to the push starts. In the first heat on Saturday, the American sled had a push start time of 4.82, one one-hundredth second faster than the German team. In the second-heat they were just two one-hundredths of a second behind.
"These guys are pushing really well," Holcomb said.
Holcomb and his crew will have to continue performing well as they head to the technically challenging Lake Placid track at their next World Cup stop this weekend.
"Its’ a different track," Holcomb said. "It’s always competitive."
In third place on Saturday, was Canada with a combined finish of 1:35.37, with runs of 47.76 and 47.61.
In other American sleds, Napier and his team of Jamie Moriarty (Winnetka, Ill.), TJ Burns (Blue Bell, Pa.) and Steve Langton (Melrose, Mass.) took eighth with a combined time of 1:35.75. Bosch along with his crew of Tim O’Mara (Salt Lake City, Utah), Chris Fogt (Alpine, Utah) and Theron Johnson (Wheaton, Md.). took 11th with a finish time of 1:35.90.
Things were somewhat more subdued on the women’s side as American favorites Shauna Rohbock and Valerie Fleming slid into third place in the women’s bobsled race on Friday afternoon with a combined finish 1:39.48 after runs of 49.79 and 49.69. Slowed by a mix on injuries and steering issues, the duo was frustrated with the final results.
"After the week I had, finishing third is good," Rohbock said. "It’s obviously frustrating. I’m ready for the first half to be over."
Rohbock spent the week in Park City trying out different steering, and was testing a brand new one in Friday’s race. Both she and Rohbock have been nursing injuries. Rohbock has a sore adductor and Fleming has a sore back, slowing them on the push start.
"Both of us have injuries, so I’m pleased that we were still able to be in the mix," Fleming said. "I think we could have had a better result if we had some extra hundredths at the start."
The finish was still higher than last week, where the women struggled to a fifth-place finish in Calgary.
It was a big day for the Germans who took gold and silver for the second World Cup in a row. 2006 Olympic gold medalist Sandra Kiriasis and brakewoman Romy Logsh put together runs of 49.26 and 49.34 for a convincing 138.60 first-place finish. Cathleen Martini and Janine Tischer took the silver medal with a total combined time of 1:38.88 with runs of 49.42 and 49.46.
Americans Erin Pac (Farmington, Conn.) and Elana Meyers (Douglasville, Calif.) had a day full of firsts, competing as a team for the first time and claiming their first-ever World Cup podium position with a fifth-place result with a combined finish of 1:39.72.
The next bobsled and skeleton World Cup tour stop will be in Lake Placid, N.Y. from Dec. 15-17. For complete results of all of the Park City races, visit the International Federation of Bobsleigh and Tobogganning (FIBT) Web-site at http://www.bobsleigh.com .
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