U.S. sliders celebrate historic season
LAKE PLACID – The USA Bobsled & Skeleton Team captured 71 medals in international races and six medals at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia for a historic 2013-2014 season.
“I’m incredibly proud of the way the team performed this season,” said U.S. Bobsled & Skeleton Federation CEO Darrin Steele. “They were ready for the challenge of Europe after a strong start in North America and they never lost sight of the ultimate goal of the Olympic Games. Once you get to the Games, the physical work has been done and it comes down to mental toughness. That’s where are athletes shined the brightest and I could not be more proud.”
The North American Cup and European Cup teams combined forces to earn 32 medals this season. Thirty-eight medals were won on the World Cup circuit and U.S. athletes were on the podium in each of the eight races on tour.
Women’s skeleton racer Noelle Pikus-Pace (Orem, Utah) claimed seven medals, four of them gold. Men’s skeleton competitor Matt Antoine (Prairie du Chien, Wis.) earned three medals in a breakthrough season, including his first career gold medal performance in Lake Placid and the 2014 U.S. National Championship title.
Women’s bobsled pilot Elana Meyers (Douglasville, Ga.) contributed seven medals to the total tally with three different brakemen. Jamie Greubel (Newtown, Pa.) emerged as one of the top bobsled drivers in the world after claiming five World Cup medals, also with three different brakemen, and USA-3 pilot Jazmine Fenlator (Wayne, N.J.) claimed a silver medal this season to bring the women’s bobsled medal total to 13. The U.S. made history by sweeping the medals in the Park City, Utah World Cup race, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished by the American women’s team since Feb. 2001.
Steven Holcomb (Park City, Utah) won 10 medals and swept the North American portion of the tour by winning all seven races on the first half to kick start the season. Nick Cunningham (Monterey, Calif.) piloted his sled to three medal performances and Cory Butner (Yucaipa, Calif.) contributed two podium finishes to bring the men’s bobsled medal haul to 15. The men carried momentum from the women’s sweep in Park City by finishing 1-2-3 in the Lake Placid two-man race to complete the first U.S. men’s team’s medal sweep in history.
The USA Bobsled and Skeleton team capped their successful World Cup season with six medal performances at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. Athletes medaled in each of the five disciplines.
Pikus-Pace and Antoine earned silver and bronze medals, respectively, in the women’s and men’s skeleton Olympic races. Pikus-Pace, who retired following her final run at the Sanki Sliding Center, wrapped her career in a silver lining after finishing second.
Pikus-Pace was already a world champion, World Cup champion and an Olympian. The only thing missing from her resume was an Olympic medal, which eluded her by one-tenth of a second four years ago in Vancouver. She realized her dream of winning an Olympic medal after sliding across the finish line in second place, and became a household name after leaping over the barrier to embrace her family in the stands.
Antoine laid down two flawless runs in the final two heats of the men’s race to secure the Olympic bronze medal. Antoine was in fourth after the first two heats, and advanced 0.32 seconds ahead of the fourth place finisher in the final run to claim a podium position.
In the women’s bobsled Olympic competition, Meyers and Lauryn Williams (Miami, Fla.) slid to a silver medal finish, while teammates Greubel and Aja Evans (Chicago, Ill.) earned bronze to continue the U.S. women’s bobsled team’s Olympic legacy. The U.S. is the only nation to medal in every women’s bobsled Olympic event since the discipline made its debut at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. Meyers contributed to a bronze medal finish as a brakeman for Erin Pac at the 2010 Vancouver Games before switching to the driver’s seat.
Williams joins an exclusive club of only four other athletes to win medals in both the Winter and Summer Games, and the first American woman to accomplish the feat. Williams was a member of the gold medal winning 400-meter relay team at the 2012 London Games before racing to a women’s bobsled silver medal at the 2014 Sochi Games.
Holcomb and Steve Langton (Melrose, Mass.) are the first Americans in 62 years to win a two-man bobsled Olympic medal after claiming bronze in Sochi. USA-1 finished a nail-biting 0.03 seconds ahead of fourth to secure a medal.
Holcomb strained his calf muscle a few steps into the push on the second run, and the medical staff worked into the morning hours to treat and prepare him for the final heats. USA-1’s lead over Russia’s second sled started to dwindle in the final heat, but Holcomb and Langton crossed the finish line 0.03 seconds ahead for bronze to break the 62-year two-man bobsled Olympic medal drought for the American program.
Holcomb, Curt Tomasevicz (Shelby, Neb.), Langton and Chris Fogt (Alpine, Utah) combined forces to claim bronze in the four-man bobsled Olympic finale. The last time the U.S. won medals in both the two-man and four-man events was when Stanley Benham claimed double silver medals at the 1952 Oslo Games, making it yet another 62-year record for Holcomb. Holcomb broke a 62-year gold medal drought for the U.S. by winning the four-man race in the 2010 Vancouver Games, and claimed the first two-man medal for the program in 62-years when he finished third with Langton. He is the first American bobsled pilot to ever win three Olympic medals.
When asked if he knew how many years it had been since an American won a medal in both the two-man and four-man, Holcomb said, “Please say 62.”
The medals were decided in a nail-biting fourth and final heat. RUS-2 posted the fastest time of the fourth heat to threaten the top three sleds for a podium position. USA-1’s advantage over RUS-2 began to shrink, and it came to 0.03 seconds between fourth place and a medal, the same gap that secured Holcomb a bronze in the two-man race.
All but one USA-1 team member had an Olympic medal coming into the four-man race. Holcomb was already a two-time medalist, Tomasevicz was part of the 2010 Olympic gold medal team, and Langton claimed bronze in the two-man race earlier in the Games. Holcomb and Langton were the only U.S. Olympians to leave Sochi with two medals in individual events.
“As impressive as we were in Sochi, it was just a stepping stone in route to a new era in bobsled and skeleton for the U.S.,” Steele said. “We were far from perfect, but we will learn from our mistakes so we can be even stronger in PyeongChang four years from now.”