Steven Holcomb and his four-man bobsled powerhouse push team of Steve Langton, Justin Olsen and Curt Tomasevicz moved up three positions with a record-breaking final run to claim World Championship bronze Sunday in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
"I wish I could have done that in all four heats," Holcomb said. "We were the guys to beat as the defending champions, and it was a tough race. We didn't make it easy on the competition, and I'm happy with how we did."
USA-1 was in bronze medal position heading into the final runs, but they only held a slim lead of 0.01 seconds over hometown pilot Beat Hefti. The Night Train crew blasted off the start block in 5.01 seconds this morning to give Holcomb velocity down the course, but a driving error at the exit of Horseshoe corner cost the team valuable time against the competition. Their run of 1:05.47 was only 16th best of the third heat.
"I got hung up on rougher ice and it held us down, so it was a pretty big mistake," Holcomb said. "There's a great team behind the team that helped us analyze video between heats to figure it out, so we knew what I needed to fix in the final run if we wanted to be back in the medals."
Swiss driver Rico Peter had the second fastest run of the third heat to move him from ninth to third, while John Jackson from Great Britain and Hefti were able to move up to tie for fourth. USA-1 was 0.06 seconds from the medals in sixth position heading into the final heat of World Championships.
Team Night Train was ready to strike. The crew posted a blistering start time of 4.98 seconds en route to a track record of 1:04.65. USA-1 watched anxiously at the finish as their four-run combined time of 4:21.26 held up to Hefti. They cheered again as Jackon fell back into fifth, and Team USA celebrated as their time withstood Peter to claim bronze.
"I guess these guys wanted to make it a memorable finish," said head coach Brian Shimer. "They didn't want to show everything they had. We'll wait until next week for that."
"Ha, it wasn't our plan to make it this exciting," Holcomb said. "I wanted to win the thing. We stepped it up and posted a track record, so I'm really happy with that. If I'd put four of those together, we would have been up there fighting for a medal of a different color, but that's racing. My team did an outstanding job, and we're feeling confident heading to the Olympic track."
Germans swept the men's bobsled titles in St. Moritz, but this time it was Maximilian Arndt who was victorious. Arndt teamed with Marko Huebenbecker, Alexander Roediger and Martin Putze to win the 2013 title with a combined time of 4:20.67. Russian Alexander Zubkov and his push squad of Alexey Negodaylo, Dmitry Trunenkov and Maxim Mokrousov were 0.47 seconds off the pace to claim silver with a four-run total time of 4:21.14.
Hefti was 0.04 seconds behind Holcomb to finish fourth, while Jackson and Peter fell into fifth and sixth place, respectively.
Nick Cunningham (Monterey, Calif.) completed his second career World Championships at the helm in 19th with Andreas Drbal (Belmont, Calif.), Adam Clark (Owenton, Ky.) and Chris Fogt (Alpine, Utah). The crew once again pushed aggressive starts of 5.05 and 5.03 seconds, and Cunningham navigated the crew to the finish in 1:05.42 and 1:05.15, respectively, for the third and fourth runs of the competition. Their aggregate time of 4:22.85 was 19th best of the race.
Junior pilot Codie Bascue (Whitehall, N.Y.), just 18 years old, piloted Jesse Beckom (Chicago, Ill.), Johnny Quinn (McKinney, Texas) and Nic Taylor (Hayward, Calif.) to 30th place in his World Championship debut. The crew bettered their first day times by clocking a run of 1:06.16 in the third heat to conclude competition in St. Moritz.
The final race of the 2012-2013 season will take place on the 2014 Olympic track in Sochi, Russia from Feb. 15-17 after a week of international training. But first the team will try to catch a few minutes of tonight's Superbowl game to cheer on their favorite teams.
"Go Ravens," Holcomb said. "I'm cheering for you."