Krasnaya Polyana, Russia • Bobsled driver Steven Holcomb will be able to start taking training runs in preparation for defending his gold medal in the four-man event at the Sochi Olympics on Wednesday, two days after winning a historic bronze medal in the two-man race.
The question is, how will he do it?
The Park City native strained his left calf during the two-man competition, to the point that he and coach Brian Shimer worried whether he’d be able to finish the race and claim the first American medal in the event in 62 years. The trick now will be managing the injury, keeping Holcomb from aggravating it during training while at the same time allowing him to get a good feel for the track at the Sanki Sliding Center that he’s still learning.
"The good thing is when we do well in two-man, we typically do pretty well in four-man," Holcomb said. "It’s kind of like our practice. We’re starting to figure out the track. Things are starting to come around. It’s looking good. We’re happy where we’re at."
Holcomb won gold in the four-man race at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, snapping a 62-year American victory drought.
He strained his calf while pushing the nearly 400-pound sled to start his second two-man run Sunday, but managed to fight through it during the third and fourth runs Monday night. Shimer said the team might simply have Holcomb sit in the sled during four-man training while his teammates do all the pushing, rather than have Holcomb join in the way he normally would.
"But that’s not going to help him learn those speeds at the top of the track that are so important there," Shimer said. "Maybe now he’s got enough runs that he’s pretty secure with his lines and when the race speeds come and he’s pushing it’s not too different. But that’s going to be his call and the medical staff on what they think he should do, to be 100 percent."
Holcomb said he will benefit from having two more teammates pushing the sled. Curt Tomasevicz and Alpine’s Chris Fogt will join Steve Langton, who pushed Holcomb in the two-man sled.
"The good thing is I have two more dudes who are about to roll in on the sled and help me push, so it’s going to be a pretty good push regardless," Holcomb said. "Those guys are ready to go. Curt’s champing at the bit, Fogt’s had two great pushes — or four great pushes [with pilot Cory Butner in the two-man race]. So, I mean, it’s going to be about four, five days of getting this thing healthy and ready to go. It’s hindered me a little bit ... but it’s not something that’s going to stop me."
Holcomb won the two-man World Cup title this season, and finished second in the four-man standings between Germany’s Maximilian Arndt and Russia’s Alexander Zubkov, who won gold in the two-man race and is a slight favorite with oddsmakers.
Holcomb won the first three four-man races of the season on North American tracks, but faltered briefly in Europe until winning the final four-man race of the season in Konigssee, Germany.
If he wins, Holcomb will become the first driver since Germany’s Andre Lang in 2006 to win both two-man and four-man at the same Olympics, and only the fourth to repeat as four-man champion, following Lang in 2002 and 2006, East Germany’s Meinhard Nehmer in 1976 and 1980, and American Billy Fiske. Fiske won in 1928 and 1932, though in ‘32 it was a five-man event.
"It will be a challenge," Holcomb said, "but I think we’re ready for that challenge."
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