KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — The medal was bronze.
But the journey certainly made it feel like gold.
“The way we had to battle the last four years, the way the competition has gotten better, to cross that line and still be in medal contention, that’s a pretty big statement,” said Curt Tomasevicz, one of three push athletes who helped USA-1 pilot Steve Holcomb earn his third Olympic medal — a bronze — in four-man bobsled on the final day of the Sochi Olympics Sunday. “It’s two places less than gold, but it’s still pretty awesome.”
Holcomb shrugged off talk of medals of another color.
“In a week’s time, I’ve gone from being an Olympic medalist (gold in Vancouver) to a three-time Olympic medalist,” the Park City native said after a medal ceremony awarding Russia the gold, Latvia the silver and USA the bronze. “So that’s kind of cool.”
All four of the men said it felt like a massive accomplishment to stand on the podium after one of the tightest races in Olympic bobsled history.
But no one was more elated — or relieved — than Alpine’s Chris Fogt. That’s because he was the only athlete in the sled who didn't already have Olympic hardware.
Both he and crew member Steve Langton were members of USA-2 in the 2010 Olympics. They crashed on their second run and weren’t able to finish the competition, while Tomasevicz helped push Holcomb to the first U.S. Olympic gold in four-man since 1948.
“Those guys had a rough Vancouver,” said Holcomb. “While we got a medal, they crashed. They make my team, and we’ve been winning, doing well, had a great opportunity. To see them train so hard, work so hard and come away with a medal, it was phenomenal that he can walk away with a medal now.”
Langton earned his first Olympic medal earlier this week when he and Holcomb teamed up for a bronze in two-man bobsled.
Fogt said the fact that he was the only athlete in the sled without a medal weighed on him as he prepared for this weekend’s competition.
“Of course, I’ve been thinking about it all week,” he said, smiling. “When I saw Steve (Langton) win his, I was very happy for him. But at the same time, I’m like, ‘I really, really hope I can get one because if I’m the only person on that sled that walks away without one, I’d be pretty sad about that.’”
Fogt spent the year after the Vancouver Olympics in Iraq, and the Army captain is heading back to active military duty in May. He competes in U.S. bobsled as part of the Army’s World Class Athlete Program.
He fought back tears as he talked about what it meant to him to earn a medal for himself, his family and his fellow soldiers.
It was those soldiers he thought of when the crash dragged him across the ice in Vancouver. And they were on his mind when he stood on the podium wearing USA across his back in Sochi.
“It’s been unbelievable to tell you the honest truth,” he said, as Tomasevicz put his hand on his shoulder. “I was overwhelmed with emotion, like I am now. It just felt great. It just means a lot for me and my family, my wife, who is home pregnant, and for the military. I’m very excited I could be out here to win something for them.”
Fogt’s family, in fact, gathered at 2:30 a.m. Sunday to watch the sled known as Night Train 2 take its final two runs at Sanki Sliding Center.
“My parents, my in-laws, my brother, he is wearing my old speed suit, with a whole bunch of his friends, all dressed up in my old speed suits. My little nephew, who is 5, was wearing one too. I guarantee it was quite the party; probably woke up the neighbors too.”
Tomasevicz is Nebraska’s only Winter Olympian, and he was thrilled to be able to bring bronze back to his hometown of Shelby.
“I love the support that Nebraska has given me,” the former football player said. “It’s pretty awesome. I think my hometown probably doubled in population as they were watching at the bar last night. You can’t compare it with any place else.”
Holcomb, too, has been overwhelmed by the support he’s received, especially after he talked about straining his calf muscle in the two-man competition. Medical treatments had him feeling about 90 percent, but it made for a later night.
“It was a little rough because we did have to race early,” he said. “But everybody had to go through the same thing.”
Holcomb said he was hopeful of earning a medal after the first two runs, despite being in fourth place, because the race was so tight.
After the first run, USA-1 was in third place. But there were issues with both their start and their ride down the track in their second run, which dropped them into fourth place by one-hundredth of a second. Meanwhile, Latvia went from fifth to third in the second run.
Zubkov, who led by 0.24 seconds after two runs, said Saturday night that the race would be won in the third heat, and he turned out to be correct.
That’s where Germany fell out of the top three, and Holcomb and his crew moved up.
“We knew if we fixed those mistakes in the push, we’d have the momentum and the acceleration down the hill,” he said. “We did that and kind of moved up.”
All they had to do the last run was hang on — and they did that by 0.03 seconds. Holcomb said he looked up with two curves to go and saw the time was green, which meant they were still in the lead.
“It was like, ‘All right, don’t mess this up!’” he said, mimicking his drive. “I would much prefer to come out and win by four-tenths. It’s a fight. The Russians are going to be faster. It’s their country; it’s their ice. They’ve had more trips than anybody.”
In fact, Zubkov hadn’t won a single World Cup race all season and he hadn’t won a two-man race in more than two dozen tries. At Sanki Sliding Center, he was the fastest man down the track from start to finish — two-man and four.
But Holcomb and his crew felt good about the effort they made in both contests.
“We did our best and we came out with a medal,” Holcomb said. “I’m pretty happy with that. Obviously, I would prefer to have won gold, but I’m happy; we came here to win a medal, and we’re leaving Olympic medalists.”
In addition to two more medals, Holcomb added another milestone to his career. When someone asked if he knew how many years it had been since a U.S. bobsled pilot won medals in both two- and four-man, he said, “Please say 62.”
It’s apparently his new favorite number.
"It's mind-blowing," Holcomb said. "It's meant to be, I guess."
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