Park City remembers Holcomb
The late Olympic medalist had huge impact on community
The Park City community took a hit on Saturday when the United States Olympic Committee announced local Olympic medalist Steven Holcomb had passed away in his sleep at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, New York. Holcomb was 37 years old.
“Our deepest sympathies go out to the family, friends and teammates of our dear friend Steven Holcomb,” USA Bobsled & Skeleton Board of Directors Chairman Pete Piechoski said in a press release. “Steve was a wonderful man, and a great friend. He was a fearless competitor whose light shone bright and guided us all. You will be sorely missed, Steve. God’s peace to you on your next journey.”
Holcomb’s name will always hold a special place in the hearts of Parkites. His was a typical feel-good story: Holcomb was a local kid who tried nearly every winter sport available, becoming one of the world’s most-talented bobsled athletes, and probably America’s best.
But his body failed him, according to the preliminary reports, cutting his life short. USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation said that the final cause of death is pending toxicology studies done by an independent lab.
Holcomb’s friends said his physical presence may be gone, but his spirit will continue to live on in Park City. It will live on at the Winter Sports School, where he graduated in 1997 and spent his summers so that he could train and compete during the winter months.
“Every day, our students pass beneath a poster of Steve, highlighting his amazing accomplishments and contributions to winter athletics,” The Winter Sports School said in a statement. “Just as importantly — and amazingly — Steve was a true gentleman: kind, polite, caring, and always supportive of his many followers.
“He maintained close ties to The Winter Sports School after graduation, popping by during the following years to check in with everyone as he himself switched his athletic focus from Alpine Skiing and Football to Bobsled. He was a true friend to WSS and he will be sorely missed.”
His essence also carries on at Utah Olympic Park, where he not only began his career as a youth, but also where he collected a number of World Cup wins and titles throughout his career.
Connie Nelson, executive director of the Alf Engen Ski Museum Foundation, is in charge of putting together Winter Olympic Hometown Heroes exhibits on display at Utah Olympic Park. Two recent exhibits contained the many accomplishments of Holcomb, including one that is still on display featuring his Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic double bronze medals.
“Steven was an inspiration to all of our guests, especially our school kids who participate in our Educational Field Trip program,” Nelson said. “It is such an honor to have an Olympian who trained and lived right here in our backyard. Steven was an inspiration to young people proving that if you work hard you can achieve your goals.”
He even left his mark on those outside of the bobsled, luge and skeleton disciplines, including some of the famous skiers and snowboarders that made their way out of Park City.
“Steve was a world-class athlete, Olympic Medalist and an inspiration to many,” Parkite and snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg said. “He had so much knowledge about life and I learned from him in the very short time I knew him. His passing leaves many mourning, but he will never be forgotten.”
“It is so sad to hear of my fellow Parkite and Olympian Steve Holcomb’s passing,” fellow local athlete Ted Ligety added. “I remember him from when I was a kid on the Park City Ski Team. He was one of the old guys us groms looked up to. It was so neat to follow his transition from local ski racer to the best bobsledder in the world. He is a source of pride to me, a local hero, and I will miss him.”
The Park City Ski Team, a program that Holcomb was heavily involved with as a youth ski racer since the Devo level, said the late bobsled athlete embodies what the program is all about. Cameron Chin, the head conditioning coach with the team, grew up going through the program with Holcomb and remembers his dedication well.
“We could always use Steve as an example of [life] beyond the sport,” Chin said. “He really epitomized being a teamplayer, being a good sportsman, being supportive of his teammates and his coaches, and just what you look for in a good character.”
More importantly to Chin, Holcomb was a better friend.
“He was always there,” Chin said of Holcomb. “[He was] very dependable, very even-keeled, fun, jovial, never really had anything bad to say about anybody. He was someone you can always count on as friend.”
These are just a few of the places and people in Park City that Holcomb influenced throughout his life. His goal in the coming months was to get more involved with the community. He even had Park City’s logo placed on his racing helmet as a tribute to his hometown, and as a surprise for the upcoming competition season.
Holcomb made a clear impact across the globe, friends agreed, but of all the places he’s been and all the lives he’s touched, there’s not a single group or town that was affected more by the shocking news than the community of Park City.
Please see “Days before death, Holcomb had Park City on his mind” for further reading.
In the U.S., doping is illegal in major sporting events, but not a criminal offense. A new resolution, endorsed by U.S. Ski and Snowboard, recommends changing that.