I think Holcomb would want us to have fun and not be too worried. That’s how we’re trying to approach it this year. —Chris Fogt
PARK CITY — The bobsled crew led by Justin Olsen didn’t look like a group in mourning.
After finishing their 12-place run at the Utah Olympic Park, the four men, including Alpine native Chris Fogt, was all smiles, even joking that while most teams hoped to win, they hoped for a 10th-place finish.
Then again, the man they’re honoring with their attitude, their effort and their near-record breaking push time wasn’t some run-of-the-mill guy. He was the best bobsled pilot in U.S. history, Park City’s Steve Holcomb, and he had a wry, offbeat sense of humor coupled with an intense competitive drive.
“I think Holcomb would want us to have fun and not be too worried,” said Fogt, who won his first World Cup on the Park City track last year in a two-man race with Holcomb. “That’s how we’re trying to approach it this year. We’re very serious. We’ll have the fastest push times every, single week. We’re going to do our best. But we’re not putting expectations too high right now. Each week we’ll try to improve a spot or two until right before Korea, hopefully we’ll be winning races.”
Friday night’s weather-delayed race was their first competition as a crew of the 2017-2018 World Cup season. About an hour after the competition ended, the official results showed their sled as disqualified without explanation. The men’s teams race in a second world cup event Saturday at 4 p.m.
Fogt and fellow push athlete Steve Langton came out of retirement to compete in one more Olympic Games with Park City pilot and two-time Olympic medalist Steve Holcomb. When Holcomb unexpectedly passed away on May 6, the two men grappled with whether or not they should continue their comeback attempt.
“He was excited to have us back,” Fogt said, “and then with the very unfortunate passing of our teammate and friend, you know, it made us question whether we were going to come back or not. We talked a whole lot together with the coaches and Justin, and I think the thing (Holcomb) would want us to do is kind of, you know, it’s therapeutic to be on the ice, to be together during this time and not home watching by ourselves without Holcomb (competing). We’re here together kind of going through the mourning process. It’s been great to have teammates.”
All of Holcomb’s teammates talked about the difficulty of competing in his hometown without him.
“It’s hard every day,” said Lauren Gibbs, who helped pilot Jamie Greubel Poser win gold with a time of 1:40.72. “I don’t think you realize the impact of someone until they’re gone.”
Greubel Poser and Gibbs edged Canadian and two-time Olympic gold medalist Kaillie Humphries and Melissa Lotholz (1:40.82) a week after finishing just off the podium in Lake Placid.
U.S. pilot Elana Meyers Taylor and two-time track and field Olympian Lolo Jones earned bronze (1:40.99) — as well as the second heat’s fastest start time. The athletes see Park City as Holcomb’s home, but it’s also something of a second home to most of them.
“It’s extremely different,” Meyers Taylor said of competing in Park City without Holcomb. “You know, every day is a different day and we’re finding out what our new normal is without him here has been a struggle, but we’re a team, and we’re going to come together and rally around it.”
Fogt and Langton said they felt great about Friday night’s result, and they’re looking forward to competing again Saturday night.
“Fantastic,” Langton said of their result. “I’m excited. I’m happy to be back on the ice, and I think we’re going to do really well tomorrow. Justin, Chris and myself, we all started on the same day 11 years ago (2007). We’ve had many runs together, and Evan Weinstock. I can’t say enough good things about him. I think he can be better than all three of us. He’s the best guy that I’ve seen come through here in over a decade.”
Fogt said he was also thrilled to be back on the ice, and he has a little extra motivation in his home state as his three-year-old son got to watch him start both runs.
“That was a huge motivator,” Fogt said. “He said, ‘You can do it, dad!’”
Fogt said he’s thrilled to be competing with men he knows so well, even if Olsen has only been driving for a couple of seasons.
“He’s a great pilot,” Fogt said. “He’s doing so well. We also had a new sled, so it was trips five and six in a new sled, new driver and our first race. We’ll struggle a little bit at the first of the season, but I think we’ll get better with each race.”