KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — The face of American bobsledding has once again rewritten the history of American bobsledding.
And he did it in pain.
Steven Holcomb, the former Alpine skier and soldier in the Army National Guard, led his two-man team to a bronze medal Monday and earned the United States its first podium spot in that event in 62 years. Their margin of victory: 0.03 seconds.
The bronze, earned with partner Steven Langton, comes four years after Holcomb's four-man group won the U.S. its first bobsled gold medal in 62 years.
Steven Holcomb (left) and Steven Langton ended a 62-year drought for the U.S. in two-man bobsled. (AP)
How long ago was the last U.S. medal in two-man bobsled? Back in 1952, the automatic gearbox was considered a luxury in most cars and gas was 25 cents a gallon. Bill Clinton was 5 years old.
[ Photos: Best reactions on the podium ]
There was serious doubt coming into Monday about whether Holcomb could race at all. He strained his left calf on the second step of his second heat on Sunday, and that threw his status into question. "I was walking into medical; I grabbed my doctor and said, 'Hey, we got a problem,'" Holcomb said. Team USA doctors worked on him until 2 a.m. Sunday.
Team coach Brian Shimer quipped that his only other option for the race was to put Holcomb's helmet on, stuff a few pillows under his shirt, and race as his lead driver. Langton joked that he "would have carried the sled down" if he had to. But there was no humor Sunday evening: Shimer had to worry about not only Monday's two-man race but also the upcoming four-man race in which Holcomb and his team are defending Olympic champions. Both races were up in the air.
"It was a dismal night," Shimer said, "wondering if he was going to be able to go today or if he'd make it worse."
They made it, thanks to a huge starting push from Langton and one of the best sleds in the world. The duo has been using a BMW-made sled that has turned heads here and propelled one of the most notable marketing campaigns in these Games. Footage of the Team USA sled, which has an altered weight distribution from prior sleds, has been shown at BMW dealerships throughout the Olympic fortnight.
[ Photos: Olympic crush: Team USA bobsledder Steve Langton ]
For American fans, however, the story is not the ride but the driver. Holcomb is only the sixth American to win two medals in bobsled, and he has a chance to tie for the most ever with another podium finish in the four-man race. Lolo Jones may be the celebrity of American bobsledding, but she's certainly not the engine.
"It's Holcomb," said fellow Team USA member Nick Cunningham. "He's elevated us all. He has definitely put USA bobsled on the map."
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