By Brandon Penny | May 18, 2017, 8:19 p.m. (ET)
Steven Holcomb's teammates pay tribute to him, wearing Holcomb's famed Superman T-shirt, at a celebration of life on May 11, 2017 in Lake Placid, N.Y.

 

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – Steven Holcomb was an Olympic champion, a two-time Olympic bronze medalist and three-time Olympian. He was a five-time world champion and 10-time world medalist. He was a 60-time world cup medalist.

He was part of the Utah Army National Guard and Army World Class Athlete Program.

He broke two separate 62-year Olympic medal droughts. He was America’s first two-man world champion.

But he was so much more than the face of U.S. bobsled for the past decade. To his teammates, Holcomb was a friend, a brother, a mentor, a teacher – and yet he was still their idol. He was wise beyond his years, a quiet leader, a confidant and a calming presence.

Days after Holcomb unexpectedly passed at age 37 on May 6, a few of his bobsled teammates shared with TeamUSA.org their favorite memories and what Holcomb meant to them:


Justin Olsen

Justin Olsen is a two-time Olympian who began the sport as a brakeman in 2007 and switched to the driver’s seat in 2015. Among his many experiences with Holcomb are winning Olympic gold in 2010 and world championship titles in 2009 and 2012.

On earning a spot on Holcomb’s team in his first season in the sport…
I just thought the world of him and I wasn’t going to talk to him when I first started. I had a lot of work to do and I needed to get a lot better first. I hoped to be on his team and that’s pretty much why I stuck around. I was 21 when we started sliding together, and I just had my 30th birthday two days after Steve had his 37th. If it wasn’t for Steve, I’m not sure I would have slid for as long as I have. He was a great teammate. Even now that I’ve started driving, we joked here and there and I’ve said, ‘I’m not the best anymore as a brakeman, but if you ever need, I’ll stop what I’m doing to push for you any day of the week.’

What he has learned from Holcomb…
I would say we’re a little bit of the opposite as far as he’s a little quieter, keeps to himself and I’m pretty outspoken. He’s taught me to have balance with that. He’s calmed me down on things. We’ve seen eye-to-eye on stuff and he didn’t say it but I did, so we kind of went to bat together, it was cool. I had no problem being the voice for us. So he’s taught me to think before I speak.

On reversing the roles…
Especially in the last four weeks that we slid together at world championships and then in PyeongChang, we came together as a team and decided we’d each try different things and tackle the track together. It was so cool that I was able to teach Steve something. For all of his knowledge and expertise, I hoped one day I would be able to help him because he always helped me. I’ve had a lot of great memories with him, but the day that I got to help Steve with something was pretty tremendous for me.

What he will miss the most…
I definitely cherish everything we had. But what I miss most is the opportunity because I saw a really bright future for both of us. I knew this was probably going to be his last year from the competitive side, and I just hoped he wanted to stick around and coach because we work really well together. I thought that he was able to bring the best out in me.

I had talked with (Steve) Mesler and we always envisioned being a lot older and having a summer reunion where we brought our families together and just sat around. We didn’t have to say much, but we spent a lot, a lot of time together going into Vancouver. There were some days where we really didn’t like each other. There was like eight months straight where we spent every day, all day together. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the opportunity to have something so special with a team like that. I’ve got years ahead of me, but when you first start out and that’s your team, you don’t really realize how good you had it. So I can only hope to have something similar with that because I feel pretty fortunate to have shared some time with someone like Steve.

 

Nick Cunningham

Nick Cunningham, a two-time Olympian, began his bobsled career as an alternate brakeman in Holcomb’s sled in 2008 and went on to become one his top competitors when he became a pilot in 2010. Racing against each other, they shared the world cup podium three times in the 2013-14 season.

On his first interaction with Holcomb…
My first interaction with Holcomb was at the 2008-09 push championships. I came up as a brand new rookie, 50 pounds underweight. No one was looking at me, I just made it in there. Steve had more stress than any of us; he was trying to put a team together to win a world championship. To be able to be named as his alternate and go on tour and see how that team worked and bonded and trained – when they went to 2009 world championships here in Lake Placid, you knew they were winning. I knew that months prior because that’s just how hard they worked.

Once I became a pilot, I watched Steve so much. That’s probably why we butted heads – because we had the same philosophy on how we thought about driving, and I completely have taken everything I learned from him and applied it to how I drive and how I train and how I deal with stress. So that was my first-ever interaction, and every interaction seems like a first interaction with Steve. He was so quiet that everything he said was gold.

What he learned from Holcomb…
He was the greatest training tool any bobsledder could ever have. When you have the best in the world on your team, you get to watch their lines every day. Bobsled is so mental, and to see him carry himself after a huge win or a huge loss – it wasn’t too far different between the two. Seeing that is hard for most athletes. We get so emotional. He was always like, ‘Eh, on to the next one.’ To see him put each race behind and focus on the next one, that’s one thing I learned from him, as well as countless lines and all the basic bobsled stuff. Mentally, he probably taught me more about bobsled than the actual sport itself.

On approaching the 2017-18 season…
I think every day we get on the ice will be a tribute to him. We will always know we need to work because that’s what he’d be doing. Every time he stood on the hill, he was a medal contender. We know that if we want to really honor his legacy, we need to make sure we’re also medal contenders every time we get on the hill. It’s going to take a lot of work. We’re all still young pilots. The fact that I’m now the veteran pilot overnight is – I’m only seven years in the sport of driving and I’m not even remotely close to calling myself elite.

We’re going to have to push each other. I had to try to catch up to him when there was a void there and these guys are going to try to catch up to me as quickly as possible, which makes it even harder. We’re going to still compete and we’re going to still go for medals, and we’re going to do it with Holcomb on our backs.

 

Elana Meyers Taylor

Elana Meyers Taylor is a two-time Olympic medalist, first as a brakeman and later as a pilot, and two-time world champion. She has spent her 10-year career idolizing Holcomb.

On her first significant interaction with Holcomb…
What I do remember is that my rookie season I was so shy I wouldn’t talk to anybody. I went two months without talking to anyone. Holcomb wore his sliding suit everywhere that season. I don’t know why, but he wore it out to dinner, out to clubs – everywhere. One time we were out and it was not our first time interacting, but I didn’t have anyone to talk to because I was shy, and he just came up to me, put his arm around me and we started talking. I don’t remember what about, but the fact that I was so reserved and he came up to me, a rookie brakeman, out of the blue and started talking to me. He’s Steve Holcomb – what are you doing talking to me and how am I even on your radar?! He just came up to me, put his arm around me – in his onesie – and we started talking.

Her favorite memory with Holcomb…
I have a lot of favorite memories with him, but the one that stands out the most – and this is what’s going to make this next Olympics the hardest – is from one of our last days in Korea for the Olympic test event. There’s all kinds of stuff going on in Korea – brakeman drama, everyone’s frustrated. We were all sitting at the bottom of the track and one of the other athletes starts complaining to the coaches and airing grievances, and me and Holcomb take off for the track and just start walking together and half the time we didn’t even say anything. We spoke a couple times, but nothing about the track at all.

Just being able to walk up the track with him, someone who’s my hero, and be able to chit-chat – but also to be OK saying nothing as we walked up the track in Korea. That’s just the kind of guy Holcomb was; sometimes you could walk a mile with him and say nothing, and that’s perfectly OK. Just to have that connection with him – that’s what’s going to be hardest for me. To have him there for the past 10 years with anything I need – any guidance, anything, and now that piece is just missing. That’s the hardest part.

What Holcomb meant to her…
He meant a lot to me. It’s hard to call someone a friend who’s a hero to you and an idol to you – that’s the hardest way to actually describe it. I wanted to be Steve Holcomb. My goal in this sport is to drive a sled like Steve Holcomb drives a sled. Every day, I’m not looking at (two-time women’s Olympic champion Kaillie Humphrie’s) video; I’m looking at Holcomb’s video. I remember scrolling through video when our sleds were painted the same and trying to pretend his lines were my lines, but my line was a completely different line. He’s bigger than life. He’s a giant in more ways than one.

 

Curt Tomasevicz

Curt Tomasevicz competed at three Olympic Winter Games in a total of four races, pushing Holcomb in each one. Before retiring in 2014, Tomasevicz earned Olympic gold (2010) and bronze (2014) with Holcomb.

His favorite memory with Holcomb…
I could maybe summarize my best memories, and they have nothing to do with bobsled. It’s our road trips across Europe or some of the cool events we got to do because we were successful in bobsled or hanging out in the hotel room and telling jokes. Just being buddies. It’s hard to pinpoint an exact memory. All those obvious memories of winning medals and being on the podium and stuff like that, of course, I’ll never forget. But more important than that, he was a friend that I shared more than just the sport with.

What he learned from Holcomb…
Staying humble and quiet. People handle different things in different ways, and that’s OK. He and I had a lot in common, as far as how we handle stressful situations or competition pressure or whatever it is. In that way, I learned to be a more comfortable athlete because of the way he could compete too.

What he will miss the most about Holcomb…
He and I, now that I’m retired, we could go months without talking or texting. He’d be competing and I’m busy being an adult now, I guess. Knowing that I could call him anytime and if we talked for five minutes, we were absolutely caught up on the last six months. It didn’t take any time at all to get back to where we were previous to that. Not having that ability to call him up or send him a text message or whatever, that’s going to be hard. I may pull out my phone every once in a while and have to remind myself that I can’t reach out to him.

 

Chris Fogt

Chris Fogt is a two-time Olympian who in 2014 was in Holcomb’s sled as they earned four-man Olympic bronze. Fogt recently returned to the sport after not having competed since the 2014 Olympics. Like Holcomb, he is a Utah native and member of the Army World Class Athlete Program.

On competing next season without Holcomb…
It’s going to be crazy. I came to the sport in ’07; he was at the peak. Since I’ve been in the sport, no one’s name has been next to USA-1 since I started. For the first time this year, someone else’s name will be there. Seeing Holcomb’s name there – no matter if he got hurt or what happened – we didn’t change that. If someone beat him in a race, we knew he was still going to overall be the best driver. That didn’t change.

It’s going to hit us the most next season. Right now we’re all still in shock and all doing our own things in the off-season. When we come together for team trials we’ll miss the wisdom he brings to the table – his knowledge, his experience, his attitude, his laughter and just him as a person. We’ve all grown so close to him. My plan in my comeback was to be on his team because why not slide with the best. Of course we’ve got some great pilots in the queue and they’re going to have to step up, and us brakemen will have to, too. I think it’s going to bring us really close together. There’s definitely going to be a piece missing this season.

His first interaction with Holcomb…
My first real interaction with him was when I was selected for the alternate for USA-1 my very first year. My job was to carry their bags, carry their runners, drive their vehicle. I was brand new, didn’t know much. I was a little nervous around the team and didn’t know where I fit in. Every time I went to take his bag from him and bring it to the truck, he would always say, ‘Hey thanks man, I appreciate it,’ or ‘Thank you, I really do appreciate it.’ And being from Utah and being in the Army, like he was, he kind of took me under his wing. I was in Europe for the first time in my life and real nervous to be there and around people I had never met. He always took the time to talk to me and take me under his wing. My first interaction with him was that this guy, who was a world cup champion the year prior, was so gracious and such a humble and caring person. If I could sum him up in three words it would be gracious, humble and caring.

His favorite memory with Holcomb…
At the USA House after we won our bronze medal in 2014, we were talking and it was just me and him; we actually did not go to Closing Ceremony, we chose to watch from USA House instead. We were out on the front lawn, watching the fireworks go off. With him winning a gold medal in 2010 and then a bronze in 2014, he said, ‘Hey man, I apologize for not winning you a gold medal; you guys pushed great.’ I told him, ‘Holcomb, I’m just happy to be on your team – we did what we came here to do, we won an Olympic medal.’ He told me, ‘Just so you know, we’re going to come back in four years and win a gold medal.’

When we won bronze, I was the only one on the team who hadn’t medaled yet. He was just so excited for me that day; even though he was a three-time Olympic medalist, he could not stop congratulating me and saying how happy he was for me for winning my first Olympic medal. That, to me, was a big one, to see his drive and ambition and see how happy he was for me. It was not about him at all.

What he will miss the most about Holcomb…
What I’ll miss most, besides a chance to win all the time, would be his calming presence. We spend a lot of time together on tour. Most people have coworkers that they get to leave at night and on weekends. In bobsled, you eat meals together, you work out together, you go to the track together, you share rooms. With a team, you can build up some drama – some people don’t like each other, you’re competing for spots against each other, things get pretty competitive.

He was this incredibly calming presence for the entire team. He didn’t gossip about anybody, he didn’t get involved in the fighting or drama, he never raised his voice. At team meetings, he never once got up or called anyone names. He would just get up and express the goal and the plan. His guidance and his leadership to the team will be greatly missed. He had been in the sport for the longest time, he always had the answers and knew what he was doing, he’d been there before so no matter what challenge we were going through he always knew how to approach it. His demeanor always calmed down the team and helped the team dynamic across the board.