The Midas man, Steve Holcomb, still has the drive
November 16, 2012
He loaded his sled into the bed of a truck near the bottom of the Utah Olympic Park. As he helped guide the bobsled, he saw someone out of the corner of his eye.
It was a fan. She was there waiting to say hello. After he made his last heave, he walked down the stairs and greeted her with a smile. She reached into her jacket and pulled out a book.
It was his book. He looked astonished. She asked for an autograph and he was glad to oblige. He took his time in writing a message in front of the book that describes the ups and downs of his life. She asked for a picture and he gladly agreed. He thanked her for coming by and then jumped into the bed of the truck and disappeared down the winding road that snakes down the mountain.
Life continues to move quite fast for Steve Holcomb.
At age 32, the Park City native, who has been the face of U.S. bobsled since his Olympic gold-medal victory in Vancouver in 2010, has been on a fast track to breaking all sorts of records. His gold medal in Vancouver was the first Olympic gold in the four-man bobsled since 1948 for the United States. This February, he won two World Championship gold medals. He and teammate Steve Langton became the first Americans ever to win a two-man World Championship gold. In 2009, Holcomb was part of the first U.S. four-man bobsled team to win a World Championship since 1959.
"I definitely enjoy representing my country and representing this federation," he said following his last training run leading up to this weekend’s FIBT World Cup stop in Park City Thursday evening. "We’ve got a lot of good people working really hard and I try really hard to represent them the best I can. It’s cool, but at the same time, your life is under a microscope."
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Being expected to win every time his shoes grace the ice is something Holcomb has grown accustomed to, whether the expectations are realistic or not. This weekend, he is back on the World Cup circuit at the Utah Olympic Park for the first time since 2010 — driving on the track he grew up driving on — when a hamstring pull two days prior to the World Cup races hampered his return home. He finished sixth.
"I had a little rough streak," he said. "Things just weren’t going my way that weekend –it’s racing. You can’t be on every weekend. It’s a little humbling when everyone expects you to come out and win everything and you just do terribly. But everyone has that problem."
Holcomb’s return home to Park City this week — he now lives at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, N.Y., on a full-time basis — is more than just getting a shot at eradicating that sixth-place finish two years ago.
He released his first book this week. The first place to showcase it on sale? The Utah Olympic Park.
Along with writer Steve Eubanks, Holcomb told the story of his life and focused much of the story on a degenerative eye disease that almost derailed his bobsled career.
"A lot of people didn’t know my story," he said. "I spent 12 years basically thinking I was going to go blind or eventually having to have a cornea transplant and be miserable."
The book is titled "But Now I See." Holcomb said he considers himself a fairly decent writer, but decided to seek a little extra help.
"I could have written it myself, but it probably would have been about 25 pages, not 200," he said, laughing.
But make no mistake, this weekend is more than a book tour for Holcomb. Coming off a win in the first World Cup stop of the season in the two-man event and a second place in the four-man event, the Parkite knows that, with this being the last full World Cup season prior to the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, every race counts.
"They want to see who is going to perform going into an Olympics year," he said. "We’ve really got to show what we’ve got."
Holcomb did say it helps to start the World Cup season on his two de-facto home tracks, in Lake Placid and Park City, but added that this weekend is a little different.
"I love it here. I’ve been here for three days and I’m ready to retire from the sport after this weekend and stay here," he deadpanned.
"Just driving around town, the nostalgia is mind-blowing. I’ve got stories about every single block in this town."
There aren’t many things that Steve Holcomb hasn’t been able to accomplish in his time sliding for the United States Bobsled & Skeleton Federation, but he said he’s always looking for that next surprise — for the next record to break.
When the Sochi Games roll around, it will have been 78 years since an American duo won Olympic gold in the two-man bobsled. Holcomb laughed when asked if that year and that drought are pinned to his bulletin board.
"I’ll have to tell you when that time comes," he said.