KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia - Steven Holcomb (Park City, Utah) and Steve Langton (Melrose, Mass.) are in position to be the first Americans in 62 years to win a two-man bobsled Olympic medal after finishing third in tonight's first two heats of competition at the Sanki Sliding Center. Sitting just 0.04 seconds from silver and 0.36 seconds from the lead, Holcomb and Langton are also in contention to be the first Americans to ever win a two-man bobsled Olympic gold medal in 78 years.
"It's not something we really think about," Holcomb said. "It's kind of like Vancouver, we still have a job to do and we still have to do it well. We're going to come out tomorrow and throw down two runs as fast as we can and hopefully be the best."
Holcomb's used to the pressure of being on the brink of making history. He led his team to the four-man bobsled gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Games, breaking a 62-year medal drought for the U.S. team.
Holcomb and Langton were second to Russians Alexander Zubkov and Alexey Voevoda after the first heat. Zubkov piloted RUS-1 the finish line in 56.25 seconds, while Holcomb navigated his BMW sled to the finish in 56.34 seconds to position USA-1 within striking distance of gold.
Zubkov again laid down the fastest time of the second heat, 56.57 seconds, to solidify himself as the overnight leader with a combined time of 1:52.82. The Swiss team of Beat Hefti and Alex Baumann threaded together a fast second run to move ahead of Holcomb and Langton with a total time of 1:53.14. USA-1 fell just 0.04 seconds from silver medal position with a two-run total of 1:53.18.
"I said coming into this that it's going to be a good race and I knew the home team was going to be hard to beat," Holcomb said. "It's going to be a battle to the end. Everything is going well for us though. We had two great pushes, Steve was on fire today, I drove well and the sled is running fast. We just need to do it again tomorrow."
Holcomb and Langton posted the third and seventh fastest push times of today's heats, 4.83 and 4.86 seconds, respectively.
"Top three or four at the finish was exactly where we wanted to be," Langton said. "I'm content with the pushes and hopefully tomorrow we can come out and put it all together."
The Germans are noticeably absent from the top six results. The last time a German crew finished off the Olympic podium in a two-man bobsled race was at the 1994 Lillehammer Games.
Cory Butner (Yucaipa, Calif.) and Chris Fogt (Alpine, Utah) had an impressive first run time of 56.45 seconds that placed them in third position. A critical error in one of the uphill sections of the course cost USA-2 an overnight medal position, and the crew finished 11th today with a two-run total of 1:53.64. Butner and Fogt are just 0.38 seconds off USA-1's pace, and the medals are still within reach if the team can put together two solid runs tomorrow.
"You mess up one thing and it just compounds down the track," Butner said. "It is guesswork. I tried to fix a mistake and then it made it worse. I feel good, and we're not out of the game yet. We're going to come into this tomorrow to throw down and do what we can to get ourselves back in medal position."
Today's runs were especially important for Langton and Fogt, who made their Olympic debuts as members of John Napier's USA-2 four-man team in Vancouver. USA-2 was one of six teams that crashed in corner 13 on the Whistler course during the first two heats of competition, and they were not able to finish the competition.
On the bus ride to the track this evening, Fogt said, "It's been 1,445 days since we crashed in Vancouver."
Not that he's counting.
"It's been a long wait for this moment," Fogt said.
Nick Cunningham (Monterey, Calif.) and Dallas Robinson (Georgetown, Ky.) were visibly disappointed with finishing 13th after tonight's first two heats. USA-3 clocked runs of 56.73 and 57.07 seconds for an overnight total of 1:53.80.
"I envisioned a different feeling," Cunningham said. "We can't dwell on it or beat ourselves out. We came in with the mentality to win, but now we need to set new goals for the race. We're going to come out here tomorrow and try to get it done."
Competition continues tomorrow with the final two heats at 6:30 p.m. The winner will be decided by the team with the lowest combined time over the four heats.