Steven Holcomb 12th in bobsled opener
Steven Holcomb (Park City) and Sam McGuffie (Cypress, Texas) teamed together in the BMW-made sled for a 12th-place finish in Altenberg, Germany’s men’s two-man bobsled World Cup opener, while teammates Nick Cunningham (Monterey, California) and Casey Wickline (Greenville, South Carolina) were 19th in the KOA-wrapped, BMW-made sled. Snow began to steadily fall following the men’s skeleton event earlier Saturday morning, complicating the men’s bobsled runs.
"I don’t have any idea what it is, but I went back to look at highlights from the last few years and 90 percent of my runs were in the snow or rain," Holcomb said with a laugh. "It’s pretty comical."
McGuffie, a former collegiate football standout and NFL player, made his World Cup debut with Holcomb. The duo pushed the BMW wrapped and manufactured sled off the block for push times of 5.38 and 5.41 seconds.
"The snow wreaked some havoc on us at the start and the pushes were a challenge for us," Holcomb said. "Sam pushed his heart out. He’s only been on ice for a few weeks and he’s racing against guys on the German and Latvian team, for example, that have been pushing for over a decade or more. He did a good job. The times weren’t ideal, but that’s not either of our faults, it was just luck of the draw and a game against the weather."
Holcomb piloted the sled to the finish with two clean runs of 56.58 and 57.71 seconds. The difference of 1.13 seconds between run times made it evident that the snow played a role in their times. The team crossed the finish in 1:54.29 for 12th.
"I’m actually very happy with the way I drove today," Holcomb said. "I made some small mistakes, nothing major, and I fixed them in the second heat. You know, I put last year out of my head going into this race, and I’m not disappointed in the results knowing that we’re still rebuilding."
Holcomb is a three-time Olympic medalist, but only one member of his push crew from the last two quads is still actively competing. That member, Justin Olsen, has transitioned to the driver’s seat, so Holcomb has had new recruits pushing for him since the 2014 Sochi Games.
"We had a great run for a decade, we were winning and medaling," Holcomb said. "Now we need to teach these new guys the ropes, and we’ve got a really talented group of athletes on our team. I’m focused on going out and having fun, focusing on my driving, and doing everything I can within my control to go fast. I know I can’t just hand over my experience to our rookie athletes and that it will just take some time for them to learn the sport, and once they do, it’s game on."
Cunningham and Wickline teamed together in the KOA-wrapped, BMW-made sled for 19th place with a combined time of 1:54.99. The crew was in 17th after an untidy first run of 57.01 seconds, and despite a smooth second run, the team fell victim to the weather and fell back two spots.
Franceso Friedrich and Thorsten Margis claimed gold for the host nation with a total time of 1:52.56. Latvians Oskars Melbardis and Daumants Dreiskens clocked an aggregate time of 1:53.02 to earn silver. Yunjong Won and Youngwoo Seo made history as the first Koreans to medal in a bobsled event after their two-run total of 1:53.04 moved them into bronze-medal position.
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It’s been a rough season for Park City, but a taste of the postseason could pay huge dividends in the future.