Holcomb runs bobsled golden streak to seven

LAKE PLACID – Steve Holcomb capped off a successful World Cup weekend for United States bobsled and skeleton athletes in Lake Placid, driving to the four-man title Sunday at Mount Van Hoevenberg.

During three days of racing at the venue, the Americans picked up a dozen medals in the sports of bobsled and skeleton. But Holcomb’s feats during the first half of the World Cup season appear to be even more impressive than the Americans’ total medal haul over three days of racing in Lake Placid. In Sunday’s finale, Holcomb kept his perfect streak alive. He’s driven to a gold medal in each of the seven races in which he has competed. After winning both Friday and Saturday’s two-man bobsled competitions, Holcomb ended his run in Lake Placid by teaming up with Curtis Tomasevicz, Steven Langton and Chris Fogt to win the four-man gold with a two-run total time of 1 minute, 50.15 seconds.

Piloting the Night Train 2, Holcomb edged out the surprise runner-up British sled driven by John James Jackson by just seven one-hundredths of a seconds. Germany took third in a sled piloted by Thomas Florschuetz.

“If you told me a month ago that I would have swept North America to start the season, I would have thought you were crazy,” Holcomb said. “Seven golds; it blows my mind.”

Not necessarily happy with his driving Sunday, Holcomb credited his team for much of the victory as the Night Train 2 started each of its two runs with the fastest push times of the day, which were the only ones under five seconds. Holcomb had the quickest first-heat run of 54.97 seconds and had the next-fastest time in the second heat, a 55.18 to clinch the victory on a day where steady snow made the track progressively slower.

“I made a lot mistakes,” he said. “If we didn’t have those great starts, we wouldn’t have won. The guys today kept us in the mix. As a team, this is the best we’ve ever been. We have 12 great, great push athletes.”

Langton, who Holcomb described as the best there is when it comes to pushing a bobsled, was pleased to collect another medal, but said this year’s World Cup is a build up to February’s Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

“Steve’s at the top of his game. He has 16 years experience out there, and I wouldn’t want to be behind any other driver in the world,” Langton said. “As many medals as we have won, the only one that counts this time is at the end of the season. That’s what we are working toward.”

Jackson had the fastest run of the second heat to move up from seventh into the silver-medal position. Along with Stuart Benson, Bruce Tasker and Joel Fearon, Jackson drove to a second-place result with a 1:50.22 total. The finish marked a big achievement for the British driver, who still walks with a limp after suffering a torn achilles tendon.

“I’m really happy to see the Brits get in there today,” Holcomb said. “A torn achilles, that could be a career-ending injury for most athletes. All the guys out here are my friends. It’s like a big brotherhood.”

After joining Holcomb in a sweep of the three top spots in Saturday’s two-man bobsled race, U.S. drivers Nick Cunningham and Cory Butner finished out of the medals in Sunday’s four-man finale. Butner, who drove to the bronze Saturday, ended the first half of his racing season with a 15th-place result with his crew of Adam Clark, Andres Drbal and Chris Langton. They finished in 1:51.21, which was a little more than a second behind Holcomb.

Cunningham, Saturday’s two-man silver medalist, finished 17th with a two-heat 1:51.31 total with a crew of Justin Olsen, Abraham Morlu and Dallas Robinson.

Women’s skeleton

Sunday’s action kicked off with the second women’s skeleton competition of the Lake Placid World Cup tour stop, and Elizabeth Yarnold slid to the gold medal to maintain her lead in the points standings. In a race that included just a single heat, Yarnold added a gold medal to the bronze she claimed on Friday. Yarnold won in 56.27 seconds. Austria’s Janine Flock slid to the silver in 56.61, and Noelle Pikus-Pace of the United States claimed bronze in 56.72.

The medal was the second one claimed by Pikus-Pace in Lake Placid, who will retire from competition following the Sochi Olympics. She won Friday’s race for her second victory of the season.

“I’m thrilled,” Pikus-Pace said. “My goal going into February is getting into the top three in these World Cup races. It’s all building up to Sochi. That’s where it counts.”

Slowly climbing her way back from a concussion, Katie Uhlaender finished tied for ninth place result Sunday with a run of 57.18 seconds.

Saturday’s bobsled

Saturday featured a men’s and women’s bobsled race, and Holcomb led an American sweep of the top three spots in the men’s two-man competition. Teaming up with Fogt, Holcomb put down the fastest runs in both heats to win with a 1:50.20 combined time. Cunningham and push athlete Johnny Quinn claimed the silver with a 1:50.74 total, and Butner joined Charles Berkeley to win the bronze in 1:50.85.

The U.S. women won silver and bronze in a race that saw reining Olympic champion Kaillie Humphries of Canada claim victory and set a track record in the process. Along with Heather Moyse, Humphries set a new mark of 56.63 seconds on her first run and followed with a 57.03 result in the second heat to win with a 1:53.66 total.

USA 1 driver Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams then followed to lead the Americans to a sweep of the next three positions. The pair finished with a combined time of 1:53.78, which was just 0.12 behind the Canadians. Pilot Jamie Greubel and push athlete Katie Eberling grabbed bronze for the U.S. in 1:54.00, and Jazmine Fenlator and Emily Azevedo placed fourth in 1:54.07.