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Holcomb stays perfect in World Cup season

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LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- A year ago, Steven Holcomb won six medals on the World Cup circuit, which would represent a strong year for just about any bobsled driver.

So far this season, he's won seven. All gold, too.

And to think, the season isn't even half over yet.

Holcomb drove USA-1 to victory Sunday to cap off another huge weekend for American bobsledders and skeleton athletes on the World Cup circuit, teaming with Curt Tomasevicz, Steve Langton and Chris Fogt to finish two runs at Mount Van Hoevenberg in one minute, 50.15 seconds. Holcomb is seven for seven this season, building big leads already in the two-man, four-man and combined overall points standings.

"If you'd have said I would win seven in a row in my career, ever, I'd have thought you were crazy," said Holcomb, who drove USA-1 to gold in the four-man competition at the Vancouver Olympics. "I don't even know what to think right now. It's kind of overwhelming."

Holcomb, Tomasevicz, Langton and Fogt had the fastest pushes in both heats, and with the way snow was piling up Sunday, they needed that extra oomph. Holcomb was the final driver down the track in the second heat, meaning he, in theory, was getting the slowest ice. And his time was 0.21 seconds slower in that second run, but still enough to hold off the British sled piloted by John James Jackson.

"We're really firing on all cylinders," Langton said. "Holcomb's driving well and even when he makes mistakes it's better than other peoples' best."

The British team of Jackson, Stuart Benson, Bruce Tasker and Joel Fearon finished in 1:50.22. It was a huge result for Jackson, who tore his Achilles' last summer and still walks with a pronounced limp.

He still came plenty close to Holcomb, even with the American on home ice.

"This is Steve Holcomb's track," Jackson said. "Put Steve on any track and he's quick."

The German team of Thomas Florschuetz, Ronny Listner, Kevin Kuske and Christian Poser took third, 0.25 seconds behind Holcomb.

Holcomb's gold capped a big weekend for American athletes in Lake Placid, plus put the finishing touches on a dominating swing through North America for the U.S. bobsled and skeleton teams.

Holcomb's medal was the 11th won by U.S. sliders in Lake Placid. The rest of the world, combined, won 10.

"These guys are dominating," said longtime U.S. women's bobsled pilot Bree Schaaf, who worked as a television commentator this weekend.

For the season, after stops in Calgary, Park City and now Lake Placid, the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation possesses 25 of the 54 medals awarded so far on the World Cup tour. It's always trickier for Americans to succeed on the tracks in Europe, where the circuit will resume after Christmas, but then again they've never headed over to that side of the tour with this much momentum.

"You can't just point to one thing," said USBSF CEO Darrin Steele, whose team had at least one medallist in all seven races contested on their home ice this weekend. "We've got really strong pushes, our pilots are improving, starts are improving and our equipment is doing great. Everything's building toward the Olympic Games."

Cory Butner and the team of Adam Clark, Andreas Drbal and Chris Langton were 15th for the U.S. The other American sled of Nick Cunningham, Justin Olsen, Abraham Morlu and Dallas Robinson placed 17th.

Lyndon Rush, of Humboldt, Sask., failed to qualify for the second run but might have had the most spectacular trip of anyone down the track.

One of Rush's brakemen slipped at the start and was unable to jump into the sled, was skidding along the ice and then got pulled into his spot by another push athlete.

Rush managed to keep the sled upright, though his finish time was good enough for only 21st place, one spot too low to reach the second heat.

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 16, 2013 C11

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