KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Steve Holcomb pumped his fists when he saw the final times. He knew instantly: the long U.S. drought in two-man bobsled was finally over.
Holcomb and his USA-1 sled locked up the bronze medal at the Sanki Sliding Center Monday night, the first time the United States has won a medal in the two-man event since 1952. It’s Holcomb’s second Olympic medal. Four years ago in Vancouver, he led the Americans to a big win in the four-man, which marked the first U.S. gold in bobsledding since 1948.
With Steven Langston pushing, Holcomb steered the USA-1 sled to third place after a pair of runs Sunday. The sled entered Monday’s heats hoping to catch second-place Switzerland-1 but unlikely to touch Russia-1. Holcomb noted earlier in the week the substantial advantage the Russians had at these Sochi Games. While Holcomb has only piloted his way down the track at the three dozen times or so, a fraction of the runs by the host nation.
Russia, indeed, cruised to gold with Alexander Zubkov and Alexey Voevoda in the sled, posting a total time of 3:45.39. Zubkov and Voevoda both won a silver at the 2006 Games, bronze in Vancouver and now each has a gold to complete his collection. Switzerland held on to take silver.
Holcomb had hoped to have a shot at silver entering Monday’s heats but lost 0.15 seconds to the Swiss and used the final heat to fend off others. Canada made up ground in the third heat and trailed the USA-1 sled by 0.09 seconds entering the final run.
But Canada-3 completed its final heat in 56.94, putting the sled well behind the leaders. By time USA-1 hit the track — the third-to-last sled of the competition — it needed to top the Russia-2 sled, which Holcomb and Langston did by just 0.03 seconds. USA-1 finished the final heat in 56.68 seconds for a total time of 3:46.27.
The USA-2 sled, driven by Cory Butner, finished the competition in 12th place, barely ahead of Nick Cunningham’s 13th-place USA-3 sled. USA-2 finished the final heat in 56.86 seconds for a total time of 3:47.19. And the USA-3 sled finished in 56.91 for a total time of 3:47.69.
Holcomb, 33, came to Sochi with thoughts of winning gold in both two-man and four-man events. He entered these Olympics as the world’s top-ranked two-man driver and is ranked No. 2 in four-man.
The four-man competition begins Saturday with the final heats slated for Sunday, the final day of these Winter Olympics.