‘He was Superman’
Community, athletes honor bobsled great Steve Holcomb
LAKE PLACID — Seventy five Superman shirts were shipped to USA Bobsled & Skeleton for Thursday’s celebration of Steve Holcomb’s life at the conference center in this village.
The federation worked with one of their primary sponsors, Under Armour, to bring in dozens of the iconic blue, red and yellow shirts, mailed on short notice for Holcomb’s teammates to wear.
Some sliders hid their shirts underneath their dress attire, sport jackets and ties. Some wore their shirts while seated during the ceremony. Others unwrapped theirs from its plastic packaging and slipped it on for one last team photo with Holcomb. An image of the Olympic champion wearing a Superman shirt at the bobsled track was projected onto a screen behind the assembled sliders.
“When the picture of him wearing the Superman shirt (was taken), I believe (Holcomb) went on to win seven straight gold medals,” said USA Bobsled pilot Nick Cunningham. “So to all of us that have come in this sport, he was Superman. He was unbeatable.”
Elana Meyers Taylor wore hers onstage in front of the more than 350 people who packed the Lussi Ballroom to pay their respects to their teammate, friend and hero who died this weekend at the age of 37. An Olympic medalist, Meyers Taylor conveyed her admiration for Holcomb by reading a blog post she wrote about her friend four years ago. It spoke to how she admired his humility and leadership in helping to captain USA Bobsled through good times and bad.
“And that’s how he approached everything, he approached the sport like that,” she told the crowd. “He was so graceful and humble and kind in every single way. And that’s something I’ll truly take away.
“Holcomb, we’ll miss you.”
Thursday was a day to remember Steve Holcomb in Lake Placid. Dozens of Olympians and his biggest fans in this community were brought to laughter and tears during the Celebration of Life ceremony organized by USA Bobsled & Skeleton.
Coaches, teammates, members of the bobsled community and Holcomb’s family members all took turns sharing stories, watching tribute videos and recounting memories alongside relics from Holcomb’s career.
Throughout the ballroom, displays of photos were set up to pay homage to Holcomb. And at the front of the room, his Olympics medals were illuminated next to the lectern while his bobsled gear — helmet, shoes, suit and sled — were illuminated on the other side.
The 37-year-old Holcomb was found dead in his sleep Saturday at the Olympic Training Center, the dorm where many of his teammates live and where the offices for USA Bobsled and Skeleton are housed. The Essex County coroner has made a diagnosis of fluid in his lungs at the time of Holcomb’s death, but his final cause of death awaits a toxicology report.
His sudden death leaves behind a gaping hole as Holcomb was the face of the American team, having won the 2010 Olympic four-man gold medal. The victory ended a 62-year drought for the U.S. in bobsled’s signature race. Four years later, the pilot from Park City, Utah added a couple of bronze medals at the 2014 Sochi Games.
“The only legacy he knew was to compete and be a champion,” the bobsled pilot Cunningham said. “That’s all that he knew. And so that’s kind of what we all need to start focusing on, is placing ourselves in the position to honor him by being a medal contender on that hill. And that’s where I think — if anything — that though we lost the best ever in our sport, I think we are going to grow stronger as a federation because of it because it’s going to bring us all together and we are more of a family than we’ve ever been, the men’s and women’s teams.
“Nobody will ever fill his shoes.”
Just nine months from now, the 2018 winter games in Pyeonchang, South Korea will be contested in honor of Holcomb, said International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation President Ivo Ferriani of Italy, who called Holcomb a brother in a recorded video message that was broadcast during the ceremony.
“Next winter will be the winter of Steve Holcomb,” he said. “Holcy, you are always with us. Rest in Peace, my friend. Ciao.”
Tony Carlino, the manager of the Olympic Sports Complex, said Holcomb was the best ever to take on Lake Placid’s signature Olympic track.
“He could drive Mount Van Hoevenberg like no one that had ever gone before him and no doubt like no one who will go after him,” Carlino said. “Steve was, and always will be, our champion.”
Joining the people of this Olympic sports community in celebrating Holcomb were his family members who flew into Lake Placid from Park City. His mother, Jean Anne, read a Native American Prayer for the Grieving.
“Do not think of me as gone,” she read to the crowd to conclude the poem, “I am with you still in each new dawn.”
Holcomb’s father then followed with words of his own, as he thanked the village for all it had done for his son.
“He was a boy when he came here,” the emotional father said, “And he was a man when he left.”