Steven Holcomb wins gold in Lake Placid
Steven Holcomb (Park City) and Carlo Valdes (Newport Beach, California) completed a Team USA sweep of the medals in the first day of World Cup racing in Lake Placid, New York with a victory in the two-man bobsled competition. Annie O’Shea kicked things off Friday with a gold-medal finish in the women’s skeleton race before Jamie Grebuel Poser and Cherrelle Garrett slid to victory in the women’s bobsled competition minutes before the men’s final heat. Team USA went 3-for-3 after Holcomb and Valdes sped ahead of the competition by 0.11 seconds for the two-man bobsled gold.
"I’m happy today, I’m ecstatic, it’s overwhelming," Holcomb said. "I kind of started the season off bad; 2015 just wasn’t my year so I’m really glad to put that behind me. I’m starting 2016 off pretty well, and hopefully can keep this going. Today is just overwhelming with emotions."
Holcomb and Valdes pushed the BMW sled off the start in 5.19 seconds for the third-best time of the first heat, 55.52 seconds, a mere 0.11 seconds from the pace set by Germany’s Nico Walther and Christian Poser. The duo clocked a second run of 5.21 seconds in the final heat and an impeccable run by Holcomb put the crew into the lead with a combined time of 1:51.00.
Walther and Poser fell back into second with a two-run total of 1:51.11, while Yunjong Won and Youngwoo Seo from Korea claimed bronze in 1:51.12.
Holcomb said he wasn’t able to train like he wanted to over the offseason while still nursing an Achilles injury sustained during the 2014 Olympic Games, and then he suffered a quadriceps injury in the first race of the 2015-2016 season.
"I wasn’t able to be in the proper shape going into the season," Holcomb said. "We’ve overcome this hurdle and as you can see today, I’m getting back into pushing again and can go pretty hard. We’re still way behind but these guys are pushing. They have stuck with me, and it’s pretty motivating, so I’m happy."
Holcomb’s last two-man bobsled gold medal performance was two years ago in a January 2014 World Cup event in Igls, Austria. He claimed five gold medals in two-man that season, but his best finish so far this season was a seventh place in Koenigssee, Germany. Friday’s victory was Valdes’ first World Cup medal finish.
"The tracks in Germany are pretty difficult, but we knew coming into here that we had home field advantage," Valdes said. "We wanted to come out here and make a statement. Winning gold, that’s a huge step in the right direction for us."
Nick Cunningham (Monterey, California) and Nathan Gilsleider (Claremore, Oklahoma) teamed together in the KOA-branded, BMW-made sled for sixth place with a combined time of 1:51.43 after clocking runs of 55.60 and 55.83 seconds.
Codie Bascue (Whitehall, New York) and Hakeem Abdul-Saboor (Powhatan, Virginia) narrowly missed the top 10 by one hundredth of a second after posting a combined time of 1:51.49 for 11th place.
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