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Utah’s Holcomb rebounds in Austria bobsled races, but falls short in four-man event

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Steven Holcomb, front right, of the United States and his team celebrate on the podium after taking the second place at the four-men Bob World Cup race in Igls, Austria, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson)

By Michael C. Lewis

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Jan 19 2014 10:49AM
Updated Jan 19, 2014 11:23PM

Bobsled driver Steven Holcomb just missed sweeping the weekend World Cup races in Austria, finishing second in the four-man event in Igls on Sunday and officially being named to the U.S. Olympic Team for the upcoming Sochi Olympics in Russia.

"We’ve now won nine medals this season and this is the first one that’s not gold," Holcomb said. "Of course, we were bummed not to win because we had gold within reach, but we’re still happy to win a medal."

Alpine’s Chris Fogt also made the Olympic team, as a push athlete for Holcomb’s new "Night Train 2" sled. Fogt also could push Holcomb in the two-man sled.

Latvia’s Oskars Melbardis and his crew won the four-man race for the second straight week to emerge as serious contenders in Sochi, after having failed to even reach the podium in the season’s first five races.

Melbardis won in a two-run combined time of 1 minute, 42.22 seconds — 0.11 seconds ahead of Holcomb, the reigning four-man Olympic champion from Park City who won the two-man race on Saturday.

The Latvians won largely because of a vastly superior push start, clocking just 4.94 seconds on each of their two runs.

Holcomb and his crew were the only other team to push under 5 seconds; they clocked 4.98 on their second run. But the difference between the push starts of the top two teams was exactly the margin of victory, illustrating the importance of that part of the race.

Still, Holcomb was encouraged by a weekend on which he snapped a four-year losing streak in Europe — he hadn’t won a two-man race there in nearly seven years — as well as a five-race streak of failing to even reach the podium after winning the first seven races of the season, all in North America.

"We wanted to be in the top five standings and we’re sitting in the top five," said Holcomb, who ranks third in the overall four-man World Cup standings. "That allows us to play with things and make little changes to see if we can make things go even faster. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. It may seem like we’ve slipped, but it’s to the contrary — we’re on our way up."

The final World Cup stop of the season is next weekend in Konigssee, Germany. The Olympics begin Feb. 7, with the bobsled competition starting Feb. 16.

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