Athletes from more than 20 nations vied for the crown at Mt. Van Hoevenberg, and the U.S. team has gained momentum towards the 2014 Winter Olympic Games by medaling on their home track in a big way. The U.S. claimed five medals, including four gold, to mark the most successful World Championships for the program.
Steven Holcomb (Park City, Utah) made history with his USA-1 push crew of Justin Olsen (San Antonio, Texas), Steve Langton (Melrose, Mass.) and Curt Tomasevicz (Shelby, Neb.) as the first U.S. pilot ever to sweep the two and four-man bobsled World Championship races held in Lake Placid. The U.S. also took gold in the team event during which women’s and men’s skeleton and women’s and men’s two-man bobsled athletes take one run each for a four-run combined time. Elana Meyers (Douglasville, Ga.) and Katie Eberling (Palos Hills, Ill.) claimed the 2012 World Championship bronze medal for women’s bobsled program on Friday.
Holcomb started making history when he won the first four-man bobsled title in 50 years for the U.S. during the 2009 World Championships in Lake Placid, and then again made history by earning the first Olympic gold medal for the program in 62 years in 2010.
“I’m a little overwhelmed,” Holcomb said. “You work so hard to get there that when you finally do it takes some time to sink in. It’s the first time we’ve won all three events, so it’s a great feeling.”
The crew was fueled by “USA” chants at the start before powering off the block for a push time of 4.94 seconds in the third run. Holcomb navigated the four-man sled down the course to pull ahead of the field by 0.21 seconds after clocking a run of 53.92. Before the finale, Holcomb tweeted: “Solid first run. Need to relax, stay focused, and do it one more time. Let’s bring it home!”
“I was nervous going into the second run,” Holcomb said. “We were ahead by two-tenths, but you know I lost two-tenths in the two-man at the bottom. I had to make sure I was focused the whole way down. The great pushes at the start gave me some room to make some mistakes.”
USA-1’s lead was extended to 0.50 seconds with a four-run combined time of 3:36.83, and they were greeted with a barrage of hugs and high-fives from team members as they climbed out of the sled at the finish.
“It’s awesome (to hear USA cheers), and it’s great to have a hometown crowd,” Holcomb said. “That is why it’s awesome to compete in World Championships in your home country, because you have all the support.”
Maximillian Arndt teamed with Alexander Roediger, Kevin Kuske and Martin Putze to claim silver for Germany with a total time of 3:37.33. The second German team of Manuel Machata, Marko Huebenbecker, Andreas Bredau and Christian Poser finished in third position with a cumulative time of 3:37.63.
John Napier (Lake Placid, N.Y.) and the USA-2 squad of Chuck Berkeley (Walnut Creek, Calif.), Adam Clark (Owenton, Ky.), and Chris Fogt (Alpine, Utah) were disqualified in the second heat after Clark slipped on the bunk while loading and was unable to get into the sled.
“The first thing that Napier did last night was give me his runners,” Cunningham said. “He wanted me to go fast. The character of these guys just stepping up for the team is awesome; they are pushing their hearts out for the team. My name is on the board but it’s all of us together.”
Photo: Above, 2012 Four Man Bobsled World Champions (Faye Hendrick Photo); Below, the USA-1 sled headed down the track (Pat Hendrick Photo).