LAKE PLACID, N.Y. - He has a 62-inch standing box jump and can jump over kids and onto cars or countertops. He was nicknamed the “Push Track Hero” by his teammates for the numerous bobsled push titles he’s held throughout his career. He’s earned 21 career World Cup medals, is a two-time Olympian and two-time Olympic bronze medalist, and a World Champion. Steve Langton (Melrose, Mass.) is a legend in the sport of bobsled, and now he’s hoping to transition his success to something off the ice.
“Competing for Team USA will forever be one of the most memorable times in my life and I will forever be grateful for that opportunity,” Langton said. “As much as I love the sport of bobsled, competing with my teammates against the world's best, and as hard as this decision has been, I know that I'm making the right one.”
With the 2015-2016 World Cup season opener just two days away, Langton is noticeably absent from Team USA’s roster.
Langton was a member of Northeastern University’s track and field team, where he competed at a weight of 225. Langton knew the lighter athletes would catch up to him and eventually surpass him. Not quite ready to retire his spikes after graduating in 2005, Langton discovered the sport of bobsled and attended a recruitment camp in Lake Placid in 2007. He was the highest scorer on the combine test, and by 2008 he was named Rookie of the Year, by 2009 he was U.S. National Push Champion, and by 2010 he was an Olympian.
If you ever needed to find Langton, it wasn’t hard to locate him; you just had to look in the weight room or wherever there was a crowd of people. His teammates gravitated towards him, and it’s not just because he was the “best push athlete in the world” per renowned driver Steven Holcomb, but it was because he was one of the hardest working, driven and humble athletes on the team. Fitness was and still is an obsession of Langton’s, and Men’s Health recognized his athletic talents, labeling him “the most powerful winter Olympian” leading into the 2014 Sochi Games.
“Watching him, it’s like balloons are tied to his back. He effortlessly launches his six-foot-two, 230-pound frame skyward-and seems to keep rising,” Michael Easter wrote in a January 2014 Men’s Health article.
Reaching the world’s stage wasn’t as easy as it might have seemed for Langton. He was on track to earning a seat in USA-1 before the 2010 Vancouver Games, but in late 2008 he underwent surgery to correct a condition called Femoroacetabular Impingement, which is a bone spur on the head of the femur caused by friction in the hip joint. Langton rebounded as expected and was on track for USA-1 again, but he chipped his knee cap after a push sled derailed during dry land training in August 2009, just months before he was to vie for his first Olympic berth. He was back on his feet quickly, despite 40 stitches, and made the 2010 Olympic roster in USA-2’s two and four-man sleds. Langton and his pilot, John Napier, finished 10th in two-man. Due to injuries sustained in a crash during the second of four runs in the four-man event, USA-2 did not finish the competition. These kinds of setbacks would likely alter a person’s dream, but they fueled Langton’s.
“My decision to continue my career for another quad after our crash in Vancouver was the single greatest decision I could have made for my career,” Langton said. “After battling back from both hip and knee surgery in the 12 months leading up to Vancouver, having our dreams shatter at 86 miles an hour was a tough pill to swallow. Looking back it was actually that event that led to my relentless pursuit of Olympic Glory and to my childhood dream becoming reality four years later.”
Holcomb snapped a 62-year medal drought in the 2010 Vancouver Games four-man race by winning gold with teammates Justin Olsen, Curt Tomasevicz and Steve Mesler. It was the sled Langton was hoping to be seated in, but four years later, Langton was not just back on the world’s stage, he was making history. Teamed with Holcomb in Sochi’s two-man race, he helped end another 62-year drought for U.S. bobsledding by winning bronze at the 2014 Sochi Games. It was the first Olympic medal by an American sled in the event since 1952.
As if making history in two-man wasn’t enough, Langton teamed with Tomasevicz and Chris Fogt in Holcomb’s four-man sled for another bronze medal performance in Sochi. Holcomb became the first driver in U.S. history to medal in both disciplines in 62 years.
“In Sochi I competed on the world's biggest stage, I won two medals for my country and I did so along not only the best teammates but best friends anyone could ever ask for,” Langton said. “Accomplishing what we did truly took a team. If not for guys like my longtime strength coach and friend Jason Hartman, Peter Toohey, Dr. Byrne, and teammates like Chris Fogt, Curt Tomasevicz, Justin Olsen and Steven Holcomb, none of what I was able to accomplish in a sled would have been possible. Looking back at my career, our successes were truly the culmination of great people being great at what they did and coming together to accomplish common goals. As grateful as I am for my experiences over the entirety of my career, I am even more grateful for the individuals who were there every heat of the race.”
After the team celebrated their medal winning performance, there was some sadness as they left the finish dock. For Tomasevicz, it was the last run of his illustrious career. For Fogt, it was the last run for a long time, if not of his career, as he turned his attention to his growing family and his job in the Army. For Langton, there was an uncertainty about what was next.
Rather than force himself to make an immediate decision about his future in bobsledding, he took the 2014-2015 season off to weigh his options. Langton was a cast member on the 26th installment of The Amazing Race with fellow Olympic short track speed skater and girlfriend, Alyson Dudek. After his hiatus from bobsled, Langton realized his dream had changed; it was no longer about his personal journey to the podium, but it was about helping others chase their own dreams.
“I accomplished the first dream I can ever remember having and it was that moment that I knew I was ready for something else,” Langton said. “My heart is full. Athletes, by nature, are extremely passionate individuals and I would like nothing more than to redirect my passion for performance and love for Team USA into helping other athletes realize, pursue and accomplish their dreams.”
There aren’t any returning Olympians on the current season’s roster of push athletes. Langton’s announcement wasn’t surprising to many on the team, but his absence is noticeable as the team rebuilds. Langton said he’d always remain a fan of the sport and hopes that his journey can help others as they travel on their own paths towards “Olympic Glory.”
“Stay humble, be confidently realistic and always, relentlessly, chase your dreams,” Langton said. “Remember that it's truly a privilege to do what we do and that although medals and trinkets are nice, when your spikes are hung up for the last time, it will be the process and your journey that you will never forget. I know I never will.”
After 21 career World Cup medals, two Olympic bronze medals and a World Championship title, Langton left a legacy in the sport that has helped create the current culture of the team.
“Steve Langton made an immediate impact on the team,” said USA Bobsled & Skeleton Chief Executive Officer Darrin Steele. “His work ethic and discipline rubbed off on the other athletes and made everyone better. He is also a heck of a nice guy. I have no doubt that he'll find success in the next chapter of his life as well.”