Four years ago, at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, Steven Holcomb became the face of US bobsledding after leading the four-man team to a gold medal. Now, he’s helped the two-man team win its first medal in 52 years.
Holcomb, a former alpine skier and soldier in the National Guard, teamed up with Steven Langton to win the bronze medal in the two-man bobsled. Russia, which is piloted by Alexander Zubkoiv, took the gold while Sweden, piloted by Beat Hefti, grabbed silver.
The US may feel just as good as Russia or Sweden after reaching the two-man bobsled podium for the first time since 1952. They finished the course in a time of 3:46.27 in their attention-grabbing sled, which was made by BMW. With Americans collecting a bronze medal, BMW has already begun using their sleek sled as ammunition in ad campaigns.
Of course, the sled is just an interesting side story to a pilot that’s been generating tons of publicity leading up to the games. Holcomb has been the focus of several human interest stories due to his skiing background, degenerative eye disease, success in Vancouver and love of video games. As for the latter, Holcomb says that playing first-person shooters like Halo and Call of Duty help him focus on the task at hand when bobsledding, while turning all of the unnecessary things out.
Another interesting thing about the 30-year-old bobsledding star is that he dropped out of college to pursue the sport. His mother was skeptical at first, however, Steve made the national team and put her mind at ease. Holcomb started out as a pusher on the four-man team. But he was eventually able to work his way into the highly coveted driver position.
Tragedy struck, though, when Holcomb began to develop Keratoconus eye disease. He was initially able to maintain fairly good eyesight through the use of thicker contacts. Unfortunately, his eyesight began to deteriorate further to the point where he retired from bobsledding. Depressed over the end of his career and wanting to end his life, Holcomb took a bunch of prescription pills and fell asleep. His suicide attempt failed, though, and Holcomb woke up after a long sleep. It was then that he had an epiphany. “Why did I wake up,” he said. “I realized, maybe there was something bigger.”
Holcomb visited a specialist who miraculously stopped his loss of eyesight and corrected his vision with C3R surgery. This procedure involves putting eye drops into a patient’s eyes, then hitting the eyes with a specific length of UV light. This strengthens the collagen and stops one’s eyes from degenerating.
With a second Olympic medal to his credit, and now a savior of the US two-man bobsled team, Steve Holcomb has definitely made his country proud. He and his teammates will try to make America even prouder in the four-man bobsled from February 22-23, when they defend their Olympic title.