They actually moved the timing eye a few meters, so whoever was fastest today would have the track record. I take it with a grain of salt, but it still felt good. —Steve Holcomb
Steve Holcomb is back.
The Park City native ended his losing streak that began when the U.S. bobsled team began competing in Europe right after Christmas. The streak was especially frustrating because Holcomb had won seven straight World Cup competitions — every race in North America.
Holcomb ended his gold-medal drought with a record-breaking two-man run with Steve Langton in Igls, Austria, on Saturday.
"They actually moved the timing eye a few meters, so whoever was fastest today would have the track record," Holcomb said. "I take it with a grain of salt, but it still felt good."
Holcomb’s victory is his fifth of the season and his third with Langton as his brakeman. Their sled was the first down the track and had a scorching push time of 5.08 seconds. They led by .22 of a second after the first round.
“It builds confidence when you’re sitting in the lead,” Holcomb said. “A lot of people were critical of us last week, and we wanted to come back and show that we’re not out of contention.”
Holcomb and Langton earned the victory with a combined time of 1:43.72. Swiss team Beat Hefit and Thomas Amrhein finished second (1:43.95), and Russians Alexander Zubkov and Dmitry Trunenkov earned bronze (1:44.00).
Holcomb said he took a risk last season and debuted a new BMW prototype at the track in Igls. They finished 14th last year, so the Park City native relished the chance to race the track again in a more finely tuned BMW sled.
“It’s nice to come back and redeem ourselves,” he said. “We’ve spent a lot of time this season tweaking the sled and we showed today that it can be really fast. I’m excited.”
The U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation will nominate its 2014 Olympic bobsled team Sunday night.
RANDALL SWEEPS SZKLARSKA SPRINTS
For the second time in a week, Anchorage-native Kikkan Randall won a World Cup sprint race.
The victory was her 10th World Cup victory in the Szklarska Poreba sprints. The win moves her from third to second in the World Cup sprint standings, just behind Germany’s Denise Herrmann, who finished second to Randall on Saturday.
Randall was happy with the win, even though her focus is the Olympic Games — now just a few weeks away.
“While the sprint overall is a secondary goal to the Olympics, I still very much want to fight to bring home another crystal globe if I can,” Randall said. “The competition is tough this year, and I'm going to have to continue to be up at the top in the remaining four sprints to win the globe.”
Randall said she is using these last two races for training for Sochi.
“We planned to use these last two races and the next races in Toblach to sharpen my race gear, and the plan seems to be working just as we had hoped,” Randall said. “I'm really happy to be feeling healthy and strong with just three weeks to go now.”
U.S. cross-country coach Chris Grover said it was a thrill to see Randall win another World Cup.
“Kikkan is making her own luck out there in each sprint, and it has led to the kind of unbelievable consistency she has in skate sprinting,” Grover said. “It was exciting to see both Jessie Diggins and Andy Newell in the final. Both put themselves in contention for the podium today by being in the right place coming around the final corner, but both unfortunately got tangled up and fell on that corner. It was another super strong day for Sophie Caldwell as well with a smokin' fast qualification and nearly getting through to the finals as a lucky-loser. Overall, it was a great day with six men and women in the top-15 and four athletes in the top 7. And this also is a day when we were missing two of our best sprinters (Simi Hamilton and Sadie Bjornsen) due to minor illness.”
WORLD SPEEDSKATING SPRINTS CONTINUE
Shani Davis finished second in the 1,000 meters at the World Sprint Championships in Japan. Kazahkstan’s Denis Kuzin won the race with 1:09.37, while Davis crossed the finish line in 1:09.44. Kjeld Nuis, Netherlands, was third with a time of 1:09.56.
"Things are looking good as we're three weeks out from Sochi,” Davis said.
Mitchell Whitmore finished fourteenth (1:10.94).
In the women’s 1,000 meters, Heather Richardson, the defending champion, finished fourth with a time of 1:15.86.
"I feel a little flat right now, but I'm happy to have gotten in a good training week,” Richardson said. “I'm looking forward to tomorrow's races and I think this is a good prep going into Sochi."
Hong Zhang, China, won with a time of 1:15.17. U.S. skater Sugar Todd was fourteenth, finishing in 1:18.97.
"It was a day with mixed results for the team, but the plan coming into this weekend was to use it as a final competition preparation for the Olympics,” said head coach Ryan Shimabukuro. “Obviously, the skaters want to race at their best since it's a World Championship, but they are also aware that this isn't the focal point of the season like it was last year. Considering the heavy training load that they put in this past week in Japan, I'm mostly satisfied with today's results and expect tomorrow will get better."
OLYMPIC SKELETON TEAM NAMED
Orem-native Noelle Pikus-Pace was one of five athletes nominated for the U.S. skeleton team. The mother of two has earned three World Cup medals this season — three of them gold.
Katie Uhlaender (Colorado) was the other woman named to the team. Matt Antoine (Wisconsin), John Daly (New York) and Kyle Tress (New Jersey) qualified for the three men’s spots.
"The quality of this skeleton Olympic team is amazing," said USBSF CEO Darrin Steele. "Anything can happen at the Games, so we take nothing for granted. But if these five athletes give their best, any one of them is capable of bringing home a medal."