Journey Of Champions presented by Liberty Mutual Insurance: Tim Morehouse Talks To Steven Holcomb
|Steven Holcomb celebrates his first place finish in the FIBT World
Cup, on Nov. 16, 2012 at Utah Olympic Park in Park City, Utah.
Steven Holcomb is widely considered one of the most-decorated bobsledders in U.S. history, and is known for making history himself. In 2009, when he became four-man world champion it marked the first time the United States won the four-man title since 1959. Holcomb then led “Team Night Train” to Team USA’s first Olympic gold in 62 years at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. With less than 11 months to go before the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, Holcomb has his sights set on gold once again.
Bobsled is a lot like fencing where many people aren’t paying as much attention in the non-Olympic years. For people who aren’t avid fans, can you tell me a little bit about how your current season has been going?
This season is going very well. We started the annual World Cup circuit in North America, where I won the first three two-man races and finished 2nd, 2nd, & 4th in four-man. The second half (after Christmas/New Year’s), we traveled to Europe for the final four World Cup races, the World Championships, and the Sochi Olympic test event. The highlights from the second half were a gold and bronze at the World Championship in the team event and four-man, respectively. The Sochi test event didn’t go as well as I would have liked but that only motivates me to get better for next year. Doing well at the Olympic test event can lead to complacency and that is the last thing I need right now.
Besides competing, you’ve been busy with a lot off the field. What’s been your favorite non-competitive moment since the Vancouver Games?
Since winning gold in Vancouver, my life has changed drastically. I’m a pretty reserved and private guy, and definitely keep to myself. Now I am being recognized all over the place. It’s really a cool feeling but something I am learning to get used to. I’m not sure I have a specific non-competitive moment. Between mingling with celebrities like when I went to the IZOD Indy 500 party, or being invited to cool events like the BMW Driving School, or singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” in front of 40,000 people at Target Field in Minneapolis, to spending a few days meeting the true heroes of our country, our soldiers – it’s really hard to say what exactly the best moment was.
You recently came out with a book called “But Now I See.” In the book, you get very personal and share that your Olympic career nearly ended prematurely because of a degenerative eye disease. Can you tell me a little bit about what many have called your “miracle”?
Millions of people heard my story going into the Olympics, they talked about it quite a bit, but it was the shortened version. Steven Holcomb had an eye disease, almost went blind, had surgery, now he’s better. That definitely tells it, but it misses so many details, it didn’t really show the struggle that I went through. Yeah, it was difficult, but nobody truly understood how difficult, that’s why I wrote my book. I didn’t just go to the doctor and get fixed overnight. I spent years of my life hiding my condition, I went through a major depression that nearly ended my life, then, by a whim, I found a doctor who had an experimental procedure that may or may not have worked. Even telling the story like that doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of what I went through. I want to make sure that people know the truth and can see that there is always hope and to never give up. I thought I was alone in all of it, but I wasn’t and I want people to know that I wasn’t, and neither are they.
You served in the Utah National Guard – U.S. Army for seven years and I understand you do a lot to support our country's wounded warriors and their families. Can you tell me a little about your work? Why are you so passionate about this?
I was fortunate that I was never deployed overseas. But I did serve with a number of people that were; a few didn’t come back, and a few came back to a living hell. Having served, I have a unique perspective that the general public doesn’t. I’ve seen what these guys go through, how hard they work, but most importantly, how much they love their country and everyone in it. I wouldn’t be able to do what I am doing now if it wasn’t for our military. They put it all on the line for me; the least I can do is be there for them when they come back.
Last year at the World Championships in Lake Placid, I was able to help get 30 wounded veterans to the race, hang out with them, and try to do everything I could to help get their minds off of life for a bit. It was a lot of fun, and seeing a smile on the face of a person who doesn’t have much to smile about is a good thing.
With the Olympics around the corner, what do you know about Sochi? What are you most looking forward to about competing there?
I just got back from Sochi, actually. It was the first time I had ever been to Russia so I didn’t really know what it was going to be like other than what a few people had told me. To be honest, it was nothing like anybody explained. To be fair though, where I was would be like a foreigner going to Hawaii and thinking they know the United States. This will be the fourth Olympics I’ve prepared for and, just like the rest of them, it looks like a disaster. They still have a year to go so I’m not worried, but it’s hard to judge what it will be like. I think I’m most looking forward to the people. There was a great energy and buzz about the Olympics and it was a lot of fun to meet the volunteers. I can’t wait to go back in less than a year.