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‘Night train’ engineers win

Sun., Feb. 28, 2010

U.S. men win first four-man bobsled gold since 1948

WHISTLER, British Columbia – Steve Holcomb never flinched.

Not when tasked with ending a 62-year drought for the United States in sliding’s marquee race.

Not when trying to navigate the world’s most treacherous track.

And not when Germany’s Andre Lange valiantly tried to hang on to his Olympic title.

Holcomb handled it all Saturday, driving USA-1 to the gold medal in four-man bobsledding, the first American pilot to do so since Francis Tyler at St. Moritz in 1948. By winning, he cemented the status of his famed “Night Train” sled and push team of Justin Olsen, Steve Mesler and Curt Tomasevicz as sliding’s best.

“This will take a while for it to sink in,” Holcomb said. “You work so hard and when you finally get there it’s like, ‘Well, now what? I don’t know what to do.’ We’ve worked so hard and gone through so much in the last four years. To end on a high note like this is huge. It’s overwhelming.”

World champions, 2009. Olympic champions, 2010.

“You can’t do any better,” said U.S. coach Brian Shimer, a bronze medalist in 2002, the year the Americans also got a silver in four-man with Todd Hays joining Shimer on that podium. With that, Shimer started to cry, unable to hold back any longer.

Holcomb absolutely tamed the track, his four runs completed in 3 minutes, 24.46 seconds. Lange was 0.38 seconds back for the silver, his quest to win five gold medals in five Olympic tries thwarted. Canada’s Lyndon Rush drove his sled to the bronze.

Lange celebrated wildly at the end, as if he had won. In his mind, he had.

“Coming into today,” said Kevin Kuske, one of Lange’s pushers, “we knew silver was all we could win.”

Holcomb was that dominant – and not apologetic, either.

“I’m good friends with Andre, so it’s a thrill,” Holcomb said. “And at the same time, it’s, ‘I didn’t mean to rain on your parade – but I have my own parade going now.”’

He and his sledmates crossed the finish line, index fingers in the air, then wrapped each other in American flags as a red-white-and-blue crowd roared with delight. Holcomb hoisted his helmet as family and friends craned for photographs, and a party the U.S. program waited 62 years to throw was finally getting under way.

“It’s huge,” said USA-3 driver Mike Kohn, who finished 13th. “This is a great moment.”

On the trackside podium for the flower ceremony – medals came later – Tomasevicz pulled off Holcomb’s hat, planting a smooch on his pilot’s bald, sweaty head. Sealed with a kiss, it was, and then the four teammates stood together and did what’s known as the “Holcy Dance,” the little shuffle step that Holcomb does to keep his team loose.


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