SOCHI, Russia - The mantra for the experienced U.S. bobsled team is simple entering the Sochi Games: prepare to podium.
"I'd say the whole U.S. program has a little chip on its shoulder,” said two-time Olympian Nick Cunningham. “The world doesn't think we can [medal] again and we want to prove them wrong."
Four Olympic bobsled medalists – including three Olympic champions – headline an experienced Team USA roster that begins its Games on Sunday at the Sanki Sliding Center. The 15-member team features six women and nine men, including seven returning Olympians from the Vancouver 2010 Games. The U.S. was one of three nations that qualified to enter the maximum of three teams in the men’s two-man bobsled competition, and one of only two nations to qualify the maximum of three sleds in the women’s race.
Steven Holcomb will look to lead the USA-1 men’s team to a repeat of the four-man gold medal and Team USA’s first gold medal in the two-man event since 1936. The two-time Olympian snapped a 62-year American gold-medal drought in the four-man event with a victory at the Vancouver 2010 Games. Joining Holcomb on USA-1 is the seasoned push crew of Curt Tomasevicz, Steve Langton and Chris Fogt. Holcomb and Langton will team together in the two-man event.
Cunningham will pilot the second U.S. sled in the four-man race, along with push athletes Justin Olsen, Johnny Quinn and Dallas Robinson. Robinson will also push Cunningham in two-man, while Team USA’s final two-man pilot, Cory Butner, will race with Fogt.
"The first day on ice at the Olympics is always exciting,” said Holcomb. “It's going well so far and I'm getting used to how the ice is built because it's a little different than when we were here in November for training."
On the women’s side, the U.S. has won a medal at every Olympic Winter Games since the discipline was introduced in 2002. The six women who will represent Team USA in Sochi have collectively earned 12 medals in world cup events this season, and are on track to continue the program’s history of success.
All three U.S. women’s pilots – Jamie Greubel, Elana Meyers and Jazmine Fenlator – are currently ranked among the top-10 drivers in the international standings, with Meyers and Greubel leading the charge in second and third place.
"I'm excited to start working with my team and see what happens,” said Meyers. “The good news is that we have three great brakemen, and that's the best scenario. Regardless of who is in my sled, I'm going to have a great push. That's a very comforting feeling."
Representing the U.S. women’s push athletes are Aja Evans, Lauryn Williams and Lolo Jones. Williams – a three-time Olympic sprinter – and Jones – a two-time Olympic hurdler – become only the ninth and 10th Americans to compete at both the winter and summer editions of the Olympic Games.
"I guess it's just the weather that's really different,” said Williams on competing at both the Olympic and Olympic Winter Games. “The Olympic spirit, the Athlete Village all feels the same."
Williams will race with Meyers in Sochi, while Greubel will be pushed by Evans, and Fenlator will team with Jones.
The Olympic bobsled events will be held in a four-heat format over two days of racing. Medals are awarded based on total time over the four runs, with the winner having the lowest overall time. If two teams complete the competition in a tie, they are awarded the same place.
The men’s two-man bobsled competition will begin on Sunday, followed by women’s bobsled on Feb. 18-19. The men’s four-man bobsled competition will be one of the last events of the Sochi Games, taking place Feb. 22-23.
The bobsled competition will be held at the Sanki Sliding Center – a 9,000-seat facility situated at the Alpika Service Mountain Ski Resort.