As Park City's Steven Holcomb targets the first U.S. medal in 62 years in the Olympic two-man bobsled event tonight, I'm remembering how it all started for him 16 years ago.
Open tryouts in any sport provide ready-made material, with a variety of characters showing up, convinced they belong in the Olympics or professional baseball or whatever that day's opportunity presents.
In the case of winter sports, such tryouts are a valuable source of talent - usually, as a way to discover athletes who have backgrounds in other sports. Football players and track and field athletes, for example, often can transition to bobsled. Holcomb, then 18, was a good example, responding to a flier and coming to Skyline High School on a 100-degree day in July 1998 to undergo the U.S. Bobsled & Skeleton Federation's fitness test.
Of course, some delusional athletes also paid the $20 fee and tried out that day. There was a gray-haired marathon runner, wearing dark socks. There was an overweight guy who ran 100 meters in about 20 seconds.
The biggest star that day was Jen Davidson, a former Utah State track and field athlete, who advanced into the program and succeeded, although she never quite made the U.S. Olympic team.
My story also mentioned Holcomb, who qualified for free housing at a bobsled camp later that summer at Lake Placid, N.Y.
By November, he was competing in a World Cup event as a push athlete. And now, he already has an Olympic gold medal and has a great shot at two more of them this week in Russia.
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