Holcomb takes gold in 2-man bobsled, talks about his battle with severe depression
PARK CITY — Steven Holcomb's voice cracked and he struggled to control his emotions.
Yet it had nothing to do with Friday's two-man bobsled win that represents the best World Cup start of his career.
He was talking about his book — "But Now I See" — that goes into great detail about his severe depression, the "demons" inside him, his failed 2007 suicide attempt and the degenerative eye disease that nearly blinded him.
"Never give up," Holcomb said is the message in his book. "There's always hope. ... It' a very humbling story. It's hard for me to talk about it. But it's out there now."
Holcomb started working on the book six months after the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, where his "Night Train" crew won the four-man bobsled gold.
He said the ninth chapter, in which he speaks about the attempted suicide with sleeping pills and Jack Daniel's in a hotel room in Colorado Springs, Colo., wasn't in the rough draft.
"I decided it was something people needed to know," Holcomb said Friday.
"I had wrapped my entire existence up in the quest to be an Olympic champion, and now, with that opportunity right in front of me, I realized I couldn't reach it because of a crippling, damning disease," he wrote.
After four glasses of whiskey, he poured a bottle of 73 sleeping pills into his hand then threw them in his mouth, and with one final swig of Jack Daniel's washed "the little helpers down."
He hadn't left a note but figured he would be found dead the next morning.
Surprisingly, he woke up the next morning.
"It was like, 'Wow, this is a second chance,'" he recalled Friday. "From there on out, I needed to capitalize on everything I would do."
In 2008, Holcomb underwent a relatively new procedure to correct the degenerative eye disease, restoring his vision from 20-500 to 20-20. The procedure saved his sight, and Holcomb went on to achieve his dream of Olympic gold in 2010.
"I could have come out with (the book) right after the Olympics, but I wanted to make sure it was right and told the story the way it should be told," he said. "I'm really proud of it."
He was proud standing beside brakeman Curtis Tomasevicz on Friday after their two-man victory, which team officials said was Holcomb's first back-to-back World Cup wins in the two-man event.
He and Tomasevicz completed two runs at Utah Olympic Park in a combined 1 minute, 37.40 seconds. They edged American teammates Cory Butner and Charles Berkeley by three-hundredths of a second. The German team of Francesco Friedrich and Gino Gerhardi was third at 1:37.50.
"I'm excited, given that it's on my home track," Holcomb said. "It's my advantage. We're going to go to Germany (later this season) and they're going to try to do well there."
That Holcomb won the two-man race wasn't surprising. That he could do it two weeks in a row, with a different racing partner was.
He teamed with Steve Langton to win the World Cup opener in Lake Placid, N.Y., and was second last week in a four-man race.
He figures to be the favorite Saturday in the four-man competition (he took silver last week) when racing concludes in Park City, but said he will continue to rotate brakemen in the two-man sled down the road.
"It just shows you how good my team is," Holcomb said. "It's one thing to have a good four-man team. It's another to have three really fast 2-man guys. I can rotate to keep then fresh."
Overall, Holcomb said there has been a concerted effort to improve the American results in 2-man racing.
"Our four-man, as you know, is fast," Holcomb said.
But he said the two-man sled he usually uses was built around 1993.
"That's not the sled I drove today but ... at the same time, you do not take a '93 Ford out to Daytona and expect to win something," Holcomb said. "We're trying to figure out how to get faster, especially partnered up with BMW."
Winning in Park City only made Friday's win sweeter for Holcomb.
"It's been awesome," he said of the week. "I love being in Park City. It's great to be around family and friends, plus I'm comfortable. I've been here my entire life."
Now his entire life story is out as well.
"Everybody knows I had an eye disease, which I overcame. But they don't know everything behind it," he said. "It's more than people think it is. ... It was a battle."
With that behind him, and the emphasis on getting faster in two-man, is it possible he could sweep gold in Sochi?
"That would be overwhelming," he said. "I don't think it's impossible. As you can see we're off to a great start."
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