PARK CITY — Rather than dwell on details that he couldn’t change, defending Olympic gold medal bobsled pilot Steve Holcomb earned his fourth consecutive World Cup win by simply focusing on what he does best — steering a speeding sled down an icy track with surgical precision.
“If you give him a fast start, he will win or be top three every single time,” said Holcomb’s brakeman, Chris Fogt, who helped push USA 1 to a 4.78-second start and a World Cup win at Utah Olympic Park Saturday.
Holcomb and his crew — Fogt, Steve Langton and Curt Tomasevicz — broke away from the pack with their second run for a combined time of 1:34.76. Germany’s Max Arndt and his crew finished second with a time of 1:35.11, while Russia’s Alexander Kasjanov and his crew earned bronze by finishing in 1:35.12.
Holcomb’s crew completed the first run in a three-way tie for first place, an unheard of situation in World Cup competition. The Park City native was visibly frustrated after the first run.
“I was upset,” he admitted matter-of-factly. “It seems really strange that they have a three-minute break (between the forerunner sled and Holcomb’s sled, which was first up in the race). It’s obviously snowing. ... Everyone knows it snows slow. That was a little frustrating standing at the top, watching it snow. Three minutes of snow is a lot.”
He said that he made a driving mistake during the first run that exacerbated the situation.
“I made a huge mistake in (curve) 13,” he said. “I haven’t made a mistake there in a long time. And it’s frustrating as well, when you nail the track except for a place you haven’t had trouble with in a while.”
Holcomb and his crew discussed what they could do differently in the long wait (more than two hours) between their first run (in which they went first) and their second run (in which they went last). The three push athletes also watched a video of the start and saw room for improvement from their 4.81-second first-run push.
“It wasn’t like a huge, significant change,” said Tomasevic, who is the only crew member who won gold in the 2010 Olympics with Holcomb. “We saw one or two little points where there was room for a hundredth or two.”
The three push athletes made some small changes and the result was the fastest push of the day. Fogt said the team wasn’t discouraged by the difficulties of the day at all.
“We were tied for first place,” Fogt said. “We knew we needed a great push, which we got. ... And Holcomb laid down an absolutely amazing run. To win by 45 hundredths over heat one is ridiculous. It was awesome.”
Even Holcomb smiled when asked how he separated himself from the pack.
“I hit all the marks I wanted to hit,” he said. “It was a pretty solid run.”
The victory is Holcomb’s fourth World Cup gold medal in four races. He said the challenge now is avoiding complacency as the team heads to Lake Placid, N.Y., for the third World Cup race of the season.
“We’ve got to keep the momentum,” he said. “It’s real easy to get complacent at this point, and think, ‘We’re flying.’ The second we ease up a bit, those guys will come flying past us. They want to stop us. They’d do anything to stop us. As we continue to do well, it’s going to get harder and harder with the pressure. We just have to stay humble, stay focused.”
In the women’s race, the U.S. team demonstrated its depth with a sweep of the podium. Two of the three drivers were competing with different push athletes than they drove with Friday, but the gold medal crew was the same for both days — driver Elana Meyers and Aja Evans. Meyers and Evans won the race with a time of 1:38.61, while Jamie Greuble and Lolo Jones tied for silver with Jazmine Fentlator and Lauryn Williams with times of 1:39.24. It was the first World Cup competition for Williams, who pushed the second-fastest times of the day behind Meyers and Evans.
It’s the first sweep by the U.S. women’s bobsled team since 2001.
"We switched out several brakemen today and had great results, so it just shows how strong this team is from top to bottom," Meyers said. "I can't say enough about our mechanics that prepared the sleds for us to race today. We have the best support staff in the world."
The women have said their goal is to sweep at the 2014 Olympics, and Saturday’s snowy race result was an indicator that they’re capable of that.
Williams is hoping they can all take gold home from Russia.
"Tell Sochi to start making more gold medals now," Williams joked. "I like the idea of finishing 1-1-1."
The weekend was a record-setting haul for the U.S. as it earned 10 medals in two days of racing. For Fogt, the Alpine native is having trouble comprehending that he’s won four medals in a little more than a week.
“I’ve won more medals in the last week than I’ve won in the last four years of my bobsled career,” he said. “It’s pretty awesome. We have three more races here at home in Lake Placid, and hopefully we’ll keep the momentum going forward.”