Winter sports: Steven Holcomb returns to home track riding high
Looks like the new sleds are going to work just fine for Steven Holcomb.
The Olympic champion bobsledder from Park City heads into a World Cup meet in his hometown this weekend coming off victories in both two-man and four-man in the season-opening races in Calgary each in a different new sled whose construction, delivery and quality were a source of anxiety for months following a disappointing finish to last season.
"I really need to credit our sled mechanics for working tirelessly to get these sleds ready," Holcomb said. "They've been working around the clock and putting up with me."
With only two months until the 2014 Sochi Olympics begin in Russia, the 33-year-old Holcomb returns to his home track at the Utah Olympic Park alongside Eagle Mountain's Noelle Pikus-Pace, who would have won the season-opening skeleton race last weekend if she had not been disqualified for a piece of tape on the handle of her sled.
The U.S. Bobsled & Skeleton Federation appealed the controversial decision to the international bobsled & skeleton federation the tape was there when Pikus-Pace's sled passed inspection before the race, U.S. officials said but a U.S. spokeswoman said a ruling could take weeks.
Meanwhile, Holcomb not only won the opening two-man race in a new sled made by federation sponsor BMW, he set a track record on its first competitive run. The next day, he won the four-man race in a new sled designed and built for $150,000 by the Bo-Dyn Bobsled Project, which had built all of the U.S. sleds for two decades until a falling out with the federation several years ago.
The new "Night Train 2" is the first sled Bo-Dyn has built since the rift was patched earlier this year.
"It's an Olympic year, and this is when it counts," Holcomb said.
The bobsledders and skeleton sliders will compete at seven World Cup stops before the Sochi Games, which begin Feb. 7.
Both Holcomb and Pikus-Pace have shown that they will be among the favorites for gold in Russia, and U.S. coach Tuffy LaTour promised that her disqualification last weekend will light a fire under Pikus-Pace on her home track, where she never has won a World Cup.
Her best finish was third, almost five years ago.
Canada's Kallie Humphries is the favorite in the women's bobsled the reigning Olympic champion won six of nine races last season, plus the opener in Calgary this year while Latvia's Martins Dukurs is the favorite in the men's skeleton, having won 21 of the 26 World Cup races since the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, including the last seven in a row.
O At Utah Olympic Park in Park City
9 a.m.-12:15 p.m. • Men's and women's skeleton
3 p.m.-6 p.m. • Women's bobsled, 2-man bobsled
10 a.m.-1:15 p.m. • Women's bobsled, 4-man bobsled