KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia - Steven Holcomb (Park City, Utah), Curt Tomasevicz (Shelby, Neb.), Steve Langton (Melrose, Mass.) and Chris Fogt (Alpine, Utah) are within striking distance of the medals after finishing the first day of the four-man bobsled Olympic race in fourth position, just 0.01 seconds from third."It's going to be a fight for the medals, but we expected that," Holcomb said. "Everyone here wants to win, including us."
USA-1 managed to power the Bodyn Night Train 2 off the start in record-breaking time, 4.75 seconds, despite Holcomb's strained calf. The defending Olympic champion piloted his sled to the finish with the third fastest time of the first heat, 54.89, to put USA-1 in the running for a medal.
"That push felt great," Fogt said. "It shows what we're capable of, and we're giving everything we have to fight for the top."
Alexander Zubkov and his crew of Alexey Negodaylo, Dmitry Trunenkov and Alexey Voevoda put RUS-1 into the lead after a track record run of 54.82 seconds. Germans Maximilian Arndt, Marko Huebenbecker, Alexander Roediger and Martin Putze were just 0.06 seconds behind the Russians in second.
The four-man race might be the most tightly contested competition at the Sanki Sliding Center this Olympics. Latvians Oskars Melbardis, Daumants Dreiskens, Arvis Vilkaste and Janis Strenga were fifth after run one, but the crew laid down the fastest run of the second heat, 55.10, to Zubkov's chagrin. Zubkov posted a time of 55.37 to hold a slim lead of 0.04 seconds over the Latvians heading into tomorrow's final two heats.
Arndt wasn't able to catch the Latvians and fell back into third, but the top three teams are in jeopardy of losing a medal spot with Holcomb, the reigning Olympic champion, on their heels. USA-1 powered off the block in 4.79 seconds, and Holcomb said he had trouble in corner five that cost USA-1 third position. The crew crossed the finish line in 55.47 seconds for a two-run total of 1:50.36, just 0.01 seconds from third and only 0.17 seconds from the lead.
Holcomb teamed with Justin Olsen, Steve Mesler and Tomasevicz at the 2010 Vancouver Games to win the first gold medal for the U.S. since 1948, and again broke a 62-year medal drought on Monday with Langton by earning the first two-man bobsled medal for the U.S. when they earned bronze. Holcomb's used to the pressure of sitting in medal contention overnight, and said he's confident in his chances to secure a top three position tomorrow.
"We're focused and serious," Holcomb said. "We have a chance to medal, and that's what we're going to do. We're just one-hundredth out of third place. The Germans know how we perform under pressure and I'm sure they are going to have a hard time sleeping tonight. Melbardis hasn't been putting down consistent runs, and we're in a good position. I'm confident that we're going to come out tomorrow and put down two great runs."
Nick Cunningham (Monterey, Calif.) and his push crew of Justin Olsen (San Antonio, Texas), Johnny Quinn (McKinney, Texas) and Dallas Robinson (Georgetown, Ky.) powered USA-2, which is the original Night Train sled that Holcomb won Olympic gold in, off the block in 4.81 and 4.83 seconds for runs of 55.61 and 55.48 seconds, respectively. The team moved up three positions in the second heat for 11th place with an overnight total of 1:51.09.
"We know our medal dreams are pretty much gone, so we regrouped and reevaluated what we're doing and our goal was to pick off some teams in that second run," Cunningham said. "Once we did that it took some pressure off and right now we're just pushing for each other, we're pushing for our country, and we're going to the best we can. That's all we can do now, and we're going keep fighting until the last corner."
Racing concludes tomorrow with the third and fourth heats at 1:30 p.m. local time.
Heats 1 & 2 Results:
1. Zubkov, Negodaylo, Trunenkov and Voevoda (RUS) 1:50.19 (54.82, 55.37); 2. Melbardis, Dreiskens, Vilkaste and Strenga (LAT) 1:50.23 (55.10, 55.13); 3. Arndt, Huebenbecker, Roediger and Putze (GER) 1:50.35 (54.88, 55.47); 4. Holcomb, Tomasevicz, Langton and Fogt (USA) 1:50.36 (54.89, 55.47);...11. Cunningham, Olsen, Quinn and Robinson (USA) 1:51.09 (55.61, 55.48);