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Pushed By Eight Rookies, Team USA Finishes In Top 10 In Four-Person

By Brandon Penny | Dec. 13, 2014, 6:41 p.m. (ET)

Nick Cunningham, Casey Wickline, James Reed and Samuel Michener compete in the four-person bobsled competition at the FIBT World Cup in Lake Placid, New York, on Dec. 13, 2014.

LAKE PLACID, New York -- Steven Holcomb knows what it means to be humbled. The Olympic champion and two-time Olympic bronze medalist is essentially starting from scratch this season.

The bobsled veteran went from driving a push crew with a combined total of 24 years of experience at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games to now driving a crew with a total of seven years of experience — all of which come from two-time Olympian Justin Olsen. Last season, all three of his brakemen already had Olympic experience. This year, two of his brakemen had never been in a bobsled before two months ago.

The lack of experience contributed to Holcomb’s lackluster results at the season-opening FIBT World Cup in Lake Placid, New York. In Friday’s two-man competition, Holcomb and Olsen finished sixth. The following day, he once again finished sixth, pushed by Olsen and rookies Alex Harrison and Aaron Victorian.

“Of course (it’s frustrating),” Holcomb said after Saturday’s four-person competition. “I’ve been doing this for 17 years. I don’t like not winning or finishing top three, but you have keep in mind I’ve got two guys who have never done this before. This is their first day, and they did a good job. They haven’t gone up against the world like this before. They’re seeing what it takes to be at this elite level, and it’s just going to take time.

“It’s going to be a long season of learning and taking a few steps back but eventually I think it will start to figure itself out.”

The transition in equipment also contributed to Holcomb’s performance. He is competing with the BMW two-man sled and BoDyn Night Train 2 four-person sled this season, and is working on getting accustomed to a change he made at the final race of the season last year.

“This is the first time we’ve actually had to go back and forth, and the change we made last year made it a little more difficult to go back and forth,” he said. “It’s going to be a little while until we can zero everything in and make it perfect.”

For now, the 34-year-old said he has nothing to prove to anyone and is OK with letting the chips fall where they may this season, as long as his is back on top for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, where his goal is gold medals in both events.

Hoping to join Holcomb on that Olympic podium is two-time Olympian Nick Cunningham, who finished just above Holcomb in the four-person competition in Lake Placid. His fifth-place result follows his bronze-medal finish from Friday.

Like Holcomb, Cunningham is piloting a sled with little experience. Lake Placid marked the first world cup for all three of his push athletes, two of whom only just began the sport earlier this year.

“Coming in with three rookies, we did actually really well,” Cunningham said. “For the first world cup, I couldn’t have asked for more from these guys. They’re all competitors and they all stepped up. I think a fifth place definitely makes us a little more hungry, but this is a feeling we’ll hopefully get used to of being in that start house getting ready for it.”

Cunningham noted that the four-person race gave his team an idea of the adverse situations bobsledders sometimes face. Saturday’s event included three crashes (Brazil, Korea, Germany), which were followed by lengthy delays to repair the track.

“It’s not easy when there’s so many crashes,” he said. It’s a unique situation being in that start house, getting ready, and then a crash happens. Ten minutes turns into 20 minutes, turns to 30 minutes, turns to an hour.”

Codie Bascue finished ninth, pushed by world cup rookies Carlo Valdes, David Cremin and Adrian Adams. Lake Placid might be Bascue’s only four-person race this season as he will be replaced by Elana Meyers Taylor starting next week in Calgary, Alberta.

Meyers Taylor finished ahead of Bascue at national team trials and successfully completed the requirements to drive a four-man sled on the world cup tour. She will make history alongside Canadian Kaillie Humphries, who is also piloting a sled in the first season where women are allowed to compete in four-person.

“I’m just excited to watch Elana do well next week,” Bascue said. “I know she’ll do well; she’s a great driver, she pushes really well, and hopefully she’ll beat a couple guys.”

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Steven Holcomb

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Nick Cunningham

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Codie Bascue

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Elana Meyers Taylor