Russian Zubkov denies Park City’s Holcomb a perfect weekend
Nick Cunningham was fixated on the flat-screen TV as he spoke to a pool of reporters after his USA-2 four-man bobsled team raced in the second stop of the FIBT World Cup circuit Saturday afternoon in Park City.
The pilot from Monterey, Calif., talked about his eventual fifth-place result in Park City, his bronze medal in Lake Placid, N.Y., the week before and the effort given by his push team, but his eyes remained focused on the black sled flying down the track at the Utah Olympic Park.
"You can’t beat it," Cunningham said, staring at the TV. "You can’t beat the camaraderie on Team USA."
On the TV, the man piloting the famed sled appropriately dubbed the "Night Train" crossed the finish line near the bottom of the park.
Park City’s Steven Holcomb hopped out of the sled, thrust his helmet into the air and celebrated with his teammates as the Night Train was suddenly in first place. Twenty-four hours prior, Holcomb had won his second two-man bobsled gold in two weeks and he was on the verge of improving on his first-week silver medal in Lake Placid in the four-man race.
But Alexandr Zubkov had other ideas.
The 38-year-old Russian veteran who has competed in four Olympic Winter Games had a memorable final run of 47.95 seconds to send the hometown kid Holcomb to a second straight silver medal in the four-man bobsled. Zubkov’s four-man team finished with a combined time of 1:36.26, which was .12 seconds faster than the American foursome, which finished 1:36.38.
"I like racing close like that," Holcomb said. "It was a good race. It’s hard to be upset when you’re losing to Zubkov. He’s pretty much the only one who’s got more experience than I do. I can deal with that."
Asked what he’ll need to do to topple the Russian bobsled star in the next World Cup stop in Whistler, B.C., this weekend, Holcomb said he must take a page out of Zubkov’s playbook.
"Bobsled is all about repetition: the more you do it, the better you get," he said. "There’s certain sleds you can just watch and say, ‘I’m going to beat him. He’s going to choke on this run.’ When (Zubkov) gets up to the line, unless he makes a huge mistake, he’s not going to lose time. I’m happy to at least get second. That was motivating. As soon as Zubkov goes off, all you can hope for is (for) one of his guys to slip. He’s not just going to go down and make mistakes left and right."
Holcomb said after Zubkov crossed the finish line victorious for a second straight week, the two titan bobsled drivers approached to congratulate one another, but there was one problem: neither could understand the other due to language barriers.
"You just smile, nod and shake hands," he said.
As the World Cup circuit continues, Holcomb said he’s eager to get to Sochi, Russia, the site of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in early February, to get in a few training runs when the World Cup makes its debut there later this season. He said the Americans will be able to take about two training runs a day for about five days on the track there in addition to the runs during the race.
"It’ll be a challenge," he said.
As he left his hometown with another gold and silver under his belt, Holcomb was asked what the future holds for him past the 2014 Games.
"I have to see where I’m at after Sochi," he said. "Four years go by really fast, but actually, it’s a long time. Once you’re done in Sochi, it’s going to be four years until you go again. That’s a long time to stay focused."
In Friday’s two-man bobsled race, Holcomb and brakeman Curt Tomasevicz continued their early-season domination, winning the second gold of the World Cup season, while Americans Cory Butner and Chuck Berkeley took silver.
In the women’s skeleton race Friday morning, Katie Uhlaendar of Breckenridge, Colo., won gold at the Utah Olympic Park. Park City’s Kimber Gabrsyzak was within striking distance of a top-six finish, but a misstep at the top of her second run cost her. The Parkite finished 15th overall.
"Anything like that, it just distracts you the rest of the way … it’s kind of heartbreaking on my home track," she said.
John Daly of Smithtown, N.Y., was the top American finisher in the men’s skeleton race on Saturday morning as he posted the seventh-best time out of 27 sliders. Martins Dukurs of Latvia was victorious by 0.05 seconds over Germany’s Alexander Kroeckel. Russian Alexander Tretiakov dominated the field out of the starting block with a blistering push of 4.56 seconds.
In the women’s bobsled race on Friday, Americans Jamie Greubel and Katie Eberling were close to medaling in fourth place, while Jazmine Fenlator and Emily Azevedo finished right behind in fifth place. Elana Meyers and Aja Evans shattered the Park City start record by a tenth of a second in the first heat and finished eighth.
Kaillie Humphries and Chelsea Valios of Canada were victorious with a combined time of 1:39.49.
The Christian Center of Park City had a makeover last year, and its boutique felt it was time for one, too.