Late USA driver in two-man and four-man bobsleigh teams upgraded from bronze at Sochi 2014 after disqualification of Russian medallists
Two and a half years after his untimely death, the family of bobsleigh driver Steven Holcomb will receive two silver medals from Sochi 2014.
Holcomb piloted the USA two-man and four-man bob teams which finished third at the Games.
But they were promoted to silver in both events after Alexandr Zubkov, the driver of Russia’s original four-man and two-man gold medal sleds, was disqualified for doping offences with brakeman Alexey Voevoda also subsequently excluded.
Holcomb, who led his country to its first four-man title in 62 years at Vancouver 2010, died in his sleep at the Olympic training centre in Lake Placid in May 2017 aged 37.
Steven Langton, brakeman in the two-man and a pusher in the four-man, are also set to receive two silver medals at Tuesday’s Team USA Awards in Los Angeles with pushers Chris Fogt and Curt Tomasevicz collecting four-man silvers.
USA’s greatest bobsledder of his generation
A native of Park City, Utah, Holcomb started out as a ski racer before switching to sliding in his late teens.
He was originally a pusher and was part of Brian Shimer’s team ahead of the 2002 Games in his hometown of Salt Lake City before a hamstring injury at the worst time saw him replaced by Dan Steele.
Holcomb then switched to driving but there was a problem – his eyesight.
After laser surgery in 2000 had failed to make a difference, he was diagnosed with the incurable degenerative eye disease keratoconus which leads to the thinning of the cornea.
Deciding not to tell anyone, Holcomb wore hard contact lenses and ahead of Turin 2006 found that his sight was getting progressively worse to the point that he thought he could go blind.
In his autobiography, ‘But Now I See: My Journey From Blindness to Olympic Gold’, Holcomb admitted he should have said something sooner but that “because the only lengthy conversations I’d had about my disease had been with myself, I always came up with the most horrific scenarios for what would happen if I confessed now”.
Having managed to pass a vision test for international competition by memorising the letters on the eye chart, he took sixth place in the four-man bob and 14th in the two-man in his first Olympic Games.
But his eyesight soon deteriorated to the point that contact lenses were not up to the task making cornea transplants in both eyes, and four years out of the bob, the only feasible course of action.
Faced with that prospect, Holcomb’s already fragile mental health worsened and he attempted suicide by taking multiple sleeping pills washed down with bourbon whiskey.
Incredibly, he survived and decided to come clean about his sight issues.
His team-mates and coaches set to work and put him in touch with Calfornia doctor Brian Boxer Wachler who fitted special implants in 2008 which improved his vision markedly without surgery.
The procedure soon became known as the Holcomb C3-R.
Holcomb was able to return to the circuit and became world champion a year later at Lake Placid before securing his greatest triumph at the Vancouver Games of 2010, piloting the ‘Night Train’ – with pushers Tomasevicz, Justin Olsen and Steve Mesler – to gold.
Popular with his team-mates and bobsleigh crowds for his outgoing manner, and his ‘Holcy Shuffle’ dance, Holcomb built on his Olympic title with three golds at the 2012 Lake Placid World Championships – two-man, four-man and mixed team.
USA retained that mixed team title a year later before Holcomb headed to Sochi for his third Games.
Bronze medals in both the four-man and two-man saw Holcomb join Pat Martin as his nation’s most decorated Olympic bobsledder.
The next couple of seasons were not quite as successful, although Holcomb was ranked second in the 2016-17 two-man World Cup standings thanks in part to a victory over Canada’s subsequent PyeongChang 2018 two-man gold medallist Justin Kripps at Lake Placid.
He was still on course to pilot a Team USA sled at PyeongChang but in May 2017 his best friend, world champion skeleton racer Katie Uhlaender, broke into his room at the training centre in Lake Placid having not heard from him for two days and discovered his body.
Holcomb was later found to have alcohol and prescription sleeping tablets in his system having appeared to have passed away in his sleep.
His 60 World Cup, 10 World Championship and three Olympic medals made him one of the most decorated drivers in the sport’s history.
Medal reallocation from Sochi 2014
Six months after Holcomb’s death, Zubkov was stripped of his medals from Sochi 2014 for doping offences.
And in March this year, following the application of the Olympic Medal Reallocation Principles, the teams below Russia were promoted with Holcomb’s two-man and four-man teams upgraded to silver.
Langton, Tomasevicz and Fogt released a statement at the time saying, “It’s unfortunate that our results were not official in February of 2014 and that we’ve had to endure the long process to see justice finally served.
“We are happy that we now can celebrate and be proud of the silver medal accomplishments.”
Latvia’s four-man team, piloted by Oskars Melbardis, were upgraded to the nation’s first ever Winter Olympic gold medal with John Jackson’s Great Britain sled promoted from fifth to third with Russia 2 also disqualified for doping having been originally fourth.
Jackson said, “Disappointingly, it is a medal we should have received on an Olympic podium in 2014. Cheats have cost us that moment, along with other nations too.”
In the two-man, Switzerland’s Beat Hefti and Alex Baumann were awarded gold with Melbardis and Daumants Dreiskens taking bronze after Russia 2 were also excluded for doping.
U.S. bobsledder Steven Holcomb is getting one last victory celebration.
A long overdue one.
More than 2 1/2 years after his death — and almost six years removed from the bobsled races in question — Holcomb and his team are about to finally be presented the silver medals that they should have received at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Holcomb and teammates Steven Langton, Chris Fogt and Curt Tomasevicz were originally awarded bronze medals, which were eventually upgraded after a long probe of the Russian doping scandal that now overshadows those games.
The medal reallocation will take place at the Team USA Awards in Los Angeles. Langton, Fogt and Tomasevicz are all expected to attend, as is longtime U.S. bobsled coach Brian Shimer and other top American sliding officials. Holcomb, who was 37 when he died in his sleep at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, New York in May 2017, will be represented by his family.
“I think the word that comes to mind most quickly is bittersweet,” said Jean Schaefer, Holcomb’s mother. “It’s certainly a great honor for Steven and I’m so very, very proud of him — as I have been so very proud of him his whole life. But there’s also a great sadness that he’s not here to enjoy the fruits of his efforts and to celebrate with his team.”
It took years to get to this point: Russia, which won the two- and four-man bobsled races at the 2014 Games on its home ice, was stripped of those titles in November 2017 after the long investigation into the state-sponsored doping program at that Olympics.
But it took the International Olympic Committee until this past March to formally reallocate the medals. Latvia was upgraded to gold in four-man, with Britain moving up to bronze. In two-man, Switzerland eventually was elevated to gold, with Latvia up to bronze.
The U.S., which left Sochi with bronzes from both races, is now recognized as the silver medalist in both. Holcomb and Langton were in the two-man sled; Holcomb drove Langton, Fogt and Tomasevicz in the four-man race.
“Holcomb made such an impact on so many people’s lives,” said Kaillie Humphries, the longtime Canadian bobsledder and two-time Olympic women’s champion who is now competing for the U.S. “He was the best.”
Holcomb, who had prescription sleeping pills and alcohol in his system on the night that he died and was so depressed by failing eyesight in 2007 that he attempted suicide, was by far the best bobsledder in the U.S. program — perhaps ever. He was a winner of at least 60 World Cup medals, more than a dozen World Cup championship trophies and the various awards from his career are scattered about the homes of his relatives.
His mother’s intention for the silver medals is that they be donated to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee archives. The USOPC was in possession of Holcomb’s bronze medals, as a gift from his family, when they had to be surrendered to the IOC in order to receive the new silvers.
“Steven once told me that his medals weren’t just medals for him or his team,” Schaefer said. “They were medals for his country. They represented America and he was very proud of that and I think he would be very proud to know that his medals reside where people can see them and enjoy them.”
Holcomb would have been a lock for the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team as well, where he could have added to his medal haul — he drove the U.S. to gold in the four-man race at the 2010 Vancouver Games, ending a 62-year drought for the Americans in bobsledding’s signature race.
His mother went to Pyeongchang last year instead, representing her son and his memory. The grieving process is not over, though Tuesday’s event is certain to bring back happy thoughts as well.
“I’m as OK as I can be,” Schaefer said. “I don’t know if a parent ever gets over the loss of a child, because it’s certainly not the natural order of things. And I have to say that the support of his teammates and the Olympic family is incredible. Just incredible. You feel the love all the time.”
She will feel it again Tuesday, one more time.
SEMA is the United Nations conference of all things aftermarket, and here’s some of the best stuff we spotted there.
1.Quintin Brothers Dodge Challenger
This 1000-hp Dodge Challenger went on a wild adventure after it arrived in Las Vegas. Vermont-based Quintin Brothers Auto & Performance had their truck and trailer stolen days before the show. Their custom Challenger was inside. Video surveillance helped track down the perp, but when Nevada state trooper Adam Whitmarsh tried to block the stolen Challenger into a parking space, the suspect rammed the Trooper’s Ford Explorer and escaped. After exiting the parking structure, the suspect smashed through a fence and drove the stolen Challenger across a nearby karting track—during a karting event. He eventually ditched the car and was later arrested. The Quintin Brothers and their Dodge Challenger arrived at the SEMA show wearing battle wounds from the wild chase.
2. Chevrolet E-10 Concept
It’s not an engine, it’s a motor. The Chevrolet E-10 concept is a 450-hp electrified C-10 pickup. Typically the only time a 1970s Chevy pickup is plugged into anything, it’s connected to a trickle charger. The E-10 has its batteries in the bed. The two electric motors seen here are called eCrate motors, a nod to the popular Chevy crate engines that can be found swapped into just about anything. GM claims the E-10 can complete a zero-to-60-mph run in about five seconds with a quarter-mile time in the high 13s. A Tesla P100D might be quicker, but it doesn’t look as cool.
3. Vibrant Performance Titanium Chair
Had Game of Thrones producers used Nissan Skylines or Toyota Supras instead of dragons as source material, this might be the Iron Throne. Vibrant Performance didn’t have to vanquish their enemies to build the thing, but they did use more than 50 pieces from their lineup of titanium exhaust products to construct what’s likely the most uncomfortable Adirondack chair on the porch. But it’s fun. Feeling exhausted? Have a seat.
4. Hyundai Veloster Grappler Concept
You’re unlikely to see a Hyundai Veloster on an off-road trail, let alone a dirt road, but this overland concept is out to change that. The Veloster Grappler concept is equipped with typical in-car camping accessories like a rear-hatch tent, solar panels, LED light bars, big all-terrain tires, and a roof basket to carry a spare. It’s still pretty low to the ground, and the tire clearance isn’t ideal for crawling, but it’s a concept. We’d pitch a tent with this thing.
5. Toyota Supra Wasabi Concept
Toyota’s Genuine Accessory Team cooked up a color for this concept that we hope will soon find its way onto a Camry. This Supra’s paint mimics wasabi paste and features white accents on the brake calipers, mirrors, stripes, and spoiler. The forged-aluminum wheels were designed at Toyota and have center caps with the original Toyota emblem. Ohlins coil-overs drop the Supra concept two inches. This was one of many Toyota Supras at the show.
6. AEV Jeep Gladiator
This Jeep Gladiator is equipped with all the proper get-dirty-quick gear. It has tough Bilstein dampers, a lifted suspension, and 37-inch tires. American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) is known for swapping big engines into off-road vehicles and then adding lift kits and other off-road accessories. They’re also responsible for the coolest parts of the Chevy Colorado ZR2 Bison. This year AEV brought three green machines to show off their latest accessories.
7. 1999 Honda Civic Si Super Street Build
Was this the car that sparked the movie The Fast and the Furious in 2001? It sure looks like it. Honda brought a handful of concepts to the show in celebration of its 60th year in North America, and what better way to do it by showcasing the Civic Si Super Street magazine modified for the Civic Si Challenge in 2000. If you collected buckets of Mattel die-cast cars as a kid (or shamelessly as adults, like us), this car might look familiar.
8. Nissan Frontier Desert Runner
The current-gen Nissan Frontier might be 16 years old, but this concept proves that Nissan knows what people at SEMA want in a truck: tons of suspension, awesome off-road tires, some type of light bar, and a 600-hp 5.8-liter V-8. In the meantime, we can only hope one of these ingredients get put to use on the upcoming Frontier refresh.
9. RTR Rambler Ford Ranger Concept
The RTR Rambler Ford Ranger does everything right without going too far. Ford chose 33-inch Nitto Ridge Grappler tires with custom RTR Tech 6 wheels, because they know anything bigger than that will be unnecessary in most cases. Three LED light bars are tastefully tucked into a custom front grille to complete an almost Ranger Raptor–like appearance. A two-inch suspension lift is installed as well as heavy-duty rock sliders, which act as both a step and as extra protection against rocky terrain. It’s a simple package done well, saving the flashy stuff like wild paint for the Insta-campers.
10. 1972 Honda N600
If it looks like this 1972 Honda N600 has a motorcycle engine under the hood, it’s because it does. This oddball is powered by a Honda VFR 800-cc V-4 motorcycle engine that puts power to the rear wheels. Although the car itself predates the era of high-revving VTECs, with the bike motor installed, this is likely the only N600 with a 12,000-rpm redline. This was one of several cars Honda showcased at the SEMA show.
11. Honda Civic Si Drift Car
This is a peek under the hood of a 926-hp Honda Civic Si. The engine is turned longitudinally and transforms a front-wheel-drive coupe into a rear-wheel-drive drift-spec machine. The work was done with help from Jeanneret Racing and Olson Kustom Works.
12. Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 Prototype
We saw this Chevrolet Silverado Desert race truck back in early October, when it competed in the Laughlin Desert Classic, a 17-mile race event in Nevada near the Arizona border. It was there for “engineering development,” but we still think it’s a preview of an upcoming Silverado Z
13. Honda Rally Passport
Honda R&D in Ohio built this rally-ready Honda Passport in their spare time. It has already survived a handful of rally competitions, finishing second in its class at the Southern Ohio Forest Rally. It has had typical safety additions like a roll cage, but other than that it’s unchanged except for tires, brake pads, wheels, and skid plates. Oh, there’s also the addition of a hand-operated hydraulic brake, for epic drift action.
14. 1968 Ford Bronco
There’s been plenty of buzz lately about the upcoming Ford Bronco, which is expected to debut in early 2020. A collaboration between Jay Leno and Ford, this Bronco has a supercharged 5.2-liter V-8 from the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 and a five-speed manual transmission. The restoration maintained the simple beauty of original Bronco. The 18-inch steel wheels by Detroit Steel Wheels are a great combination of old style and modern needs. The Bronco’s Tonight Blue color would look great on a Mustang or F-150 Raptor.
15. Hyundai Veloster N Performance Concept
The Veloster N is quick, but this Veloster N Performance concept is quicker. Hyundai modified its hot hatch with carbon fiber for the front splitter, side skirts, rear diffuser, and spoiler while adding carbon fiber to each wheel’s center caps. The suspension is made up of Extreme Racing coil-overs and H&R coil springs with aluminum chassis bracing to add rigidity. Orange-accented interior bits stand out among more carbon-fiber pieces and an Alcantara dashboard.
16. SpeedKore Dodge Charger
Routed through the front fender of a 2019 Dodge Charger Pursuit is the exhaust from a 1525-hp Dodge Demon V-8. This project, put together by SpeedKore Performance Group and MagnaFlow, began as a police car. After fitting a carbon-fiber widebody kit, they turned it into something that would outrun police cars. The stock supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 was transformed into a twin-turbo engine and received an upgraded upper intake manifold designed to withstand the 26 psi of boost.
Written by: Austin Irwin, Car&Driver
LAKE PLACID — The state Olympic Regional Development Authority will be hosting the first two International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation World Cups this year at Mount Van Hoevenberg, instead of only one as previously planned.
The season-opening BMW IBSF Bobsled & Skeleton World Cup originally scheduled at Park City, Utah from Nov. 25 to Dec. 1 was moved to Lake Placid for the weekend of Dec. 7 and 8, the IBSF announced on Nov. 2. The second World Cup race will be held as planned at the Olympic Sports Complex from Dec. 13 to 15.
“Due to the short time for preparation and in order to guarantee high level quality ice, the schedule for those two World Cup weeks had to be amended,” the IBSF stated in a press release.
There will be two, two two-man bobsled World Cup races held during the first week and two, four-man bobsled races held during the second week. There will also be women’s bobsledding and skeleton racing for men and women. The IBSF had not changed the schedule on its website by press time.
The IBSF cites technical issues with the refrigeration pump system on the Park City track as the reason for the rescheduling.
Pic 2 Bobsledder Codie Bascue rides through Curve 14 at Mount Van Hoevenberg on the men’s first run during the IBSF World Cup in February. (Enterprise file photo — Lou Reuter)
“Though the track management has acted immediately and tried to repair the system, it cannot guarantee that it will be ready by the time of the World Cup,” the IBSF stated. “In order to avoid any risk of not hosting the event it was decided to move it to Lake Placid.”
In its release, IBSF officials thanked Park City track management “for the swift and professional proceeding in this matter,” Jeff Potter at ORDA “for his support in taking over the event” and John Rosen of USA Bobsled & Skeleton “for coordinating the matter.”
“The immediate cooperation between the two track managements of Park City and Lake Placid shows their great commitment for bobsleigh and skeleton sports and we want to thank both Race Organizers,” the IBSF stated.
The Lake Placid races were announced by ORDA Tuesday as part of its winter schedule. After the first two World Cups are done, the circuit heads to Europe for World Cup racing Dec. 30 to Jan. 5 in Winterberg, Germany.
ORDA will host the Viessmann FIL Luge World Cup/BMW Sprint Cup from Nov. 29 to Dec. 1 at Mount Van Hoevenberg, giving Lake Placid three straight weeks of World Cup racing on the American teams’ home track. Both USA Bobsled & Skeleton and USA Luge are based in Lake Placid.
Original source: Andy Flynn, AndirondackDaily