Holcomb’s fast race to the top
It’s been a long time since bobsledder Steve Holcomb has had time to slow down.
As he sits in his father’s home in Oakley watching a DVD of his World Cup races, it is the first time all season that he stopped to catch his breath — to take in all that he has accomplished in what was an unexpectedly magical season.
"It’s been 21 weeks of non-stop bobsled action," Holcomb said.
At the beginning of the year, Holcomb was just trying to do his best to stay calm and focused under the intense pressure of performing well after Todd Hayes and a slew of other Olympic champion bobsledders decided to retire. Having never won a World Cup medal he knew it would be a challenging season, but was resolved to just hit it head on.
Turns out, his aim was perfect.
Two weeks ago, Holcomb was named the two-man bobsled World Cup Champion and the Overall Bobsled World Cup Champion after finishing second in the four-man competition. The enormity of it all has yet to set in.
"It still hasn’t sunk in," Holcomb said. "It’s been pretty intense and exciting."
How did Holcomb race from relative obscurity to the top of the sport?
Even he’s not sure sometimes. but he’s hoping to carry his success all the way to next Olympics in Vancouver in 2010.
In Oscar-accepting fashion, Holcomb points out all of the little people that were behind him in earning the championship trophies his push athletes, the American coaches, his Bo-Dyne sled and the countless "little people" that help him at each and every race.
"Fortunately for me, I’m the one who gets all the credit," Holcomb said. "There’s probably about 20 people who all work together really hard to make things perfect."
He figures his success started before the first race of the season in Calgary, Canada. He was discussing the impending season with skeleton slider Katie Uhlaender (Breckenridge, Colo.) He told her that he was just going to go out there and do his best and took second in the two-man race in Calgary. The next week at the Utah Olympic Park, he captured silver again and stayed at the top for the rest of the season.
"I never remotely imagined," Holcomb said.
Coincidentally, Uhlaender had similar success and was the named the Overall World Cup Champion in skeleton.
Holcomb laments that even with all that he’s accomplished this season, some people still can’t quite grasp his accomplishments. Shoot, just a few weeks ago at a World Cup stop in Cortina, Italy, Holcomb had yet another first-place finish and his aunt began announcing that he had won the World Cup.
"She told everybody that I had won the World Cup like in soccer," Holcomb laughed.
He offers a comparison to ski racing for the bobsled illiterate. He earned points at each of the 16 races on the World Cup circuit and the bobsledder with the most points at the end of the season, wins the championship, just like Ted Ligety or Bode Miller might if they earned enough points at each race.
Now that his dream season is behind him, Holcomb is focused on maintaining his domination. Along with the U.S. coaching staff, he has carefully devised a plan for the off-season and goals for next year.
"I can still be the champion if I don’t get ahead of myself," Holcomb said.
Holcomb will spend his time rotating between Park City and the Olympic Training Center in San Diego for off-season training.
He is also excited about his prospects in the four-man competition next year. At the start of this year, the American coaching staff didn’t figure they had a chance to compete and put some of the newer bobsledders in Holcomb’s sled. As he continued to win, the decision was made to put the best athletes with Holcomb. That team will stay intact next season.
"I’m shooting for the title," Holcomb said. "I think this next season we’re pretty motivated."
The best part is that Holcomb was one of the main factors in America’s return to sliding glory after controversy rocked the United States Bobsled and Skeleton Federation last year.
"We all realized that how low we were last year, so we all stepped up and changed things," Holcomb said. "We’re all working together and supporting each other."
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Park City Fire District Chief Paul Hewitt died Friday from injuries sustained in an off-duty accident earlier in the week, the agency announced.