Amy Donaldson: Steve Holcomb's real test will be how he responds to bobsled crashes
He confided in his coaches, who found Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler, who’d invented an innovative procedure so new it hadn’t even been approved by the FDA. The vitamin injections cured Holcomb’s eye disease, and he went on to win gold in Vancouver.
“Obviously, you always want to win, but you want to win by skiing a race that you’re proud of and you feel like you really challenged yourself and left it all out there.” — Bode Miller
This season, team USA enjoy successful partnerships with Bo-Dyn, the designer of the four-man sled, including Night Train (driven by Cunningham this last weekend) and Night Train 2 (driven by Holcomb). In two-man, BMW designed new sleds that have been getting rave reviews — and podium results — even as pilots tweak the machines.
Holcomb said innovative new sleds, tireless technicians and the best push athletes in the world have helped the U.S. bobsled team, including himself, enjoy unprecedented success.
Holcomb said he was wary of the holiday break because he wanted “to keep the momentum going.
“I’m trying to relax, but still keep my head in the game,” he said before leaving for Germany. “I have a lot of support, and it’s easier, keeps you focused to see all the people standing behind you.”
Holcomb has seemed hungrier this season than ever before. His relentless competitiveness and quest for perfection seem almost at odds with the fact that he’s reached the top of the mountain. He owns Olympic gold.
He said trying to explain how differently he feels preparing to attempt to win Olympic Gold again is extremely difficult.
“This time I wasn’t much worried about making the team,” he said. “This one is a little different. If I don’t win, I still walk away an Olympic champion. They can’t take that title away from me. At the same time, I want to win. But I’m prepared, and when you’re prepared, there is no pressure.”
“Sports do not build character. They reveal it.” — John Wooden
He eased up in the run up to Vancouver, a mistake he said he would not make this season. Whenever there was a competition, even if he didn’t need to fight for a spot, he played the game.
It’s probably the reason he didn’t realize he’d won 50 medals in his career until someone else mentioned it to him.
“It’s kind of a cool stat,” he said, admitting the medals and trophies are spread out among his family members. “I didn’t realize that’s what it was. ... It’s hard to believe. I feel like I’ve only won a few times. It’s one of those things where you never remember the good things, just the bad ones.”
Maybe that’s because for all he’s achieved, Holcomb still sees himself as a man with goals to accomplish. He’s comfortable, confident — but not complacent.
At the last World Cup on his home track in Park City, Holcomb said a pilot is always looking for that perfect run. Even with a gold medal hanging around his neck, he admitted he was still searching for that run.
And while some people, possibly some of his competitors or a few of his critics, may see this weekend's crashes as evidence that he’s vulnerable, others will see it as evidence of his courage.
Whatever the crashes mean or reveal about the pilot will be decided, for the most part, by Holcomb himself. His situation this weekend is simply a reminder that all of us, even champions, will have dark, disappointing, even frightening days.
We will all crash.
Luckily, it isn’t the difficulties that define us. It’s how we respond to challenges that allows us to be champions — whether we receive a medal for our fortitude or just another shot at happiness.
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