Holcomb wins bobsled gold at Lake Placid

BY foxsports • November 23, 2009

Steven Holcomb, the reigning four-man bobsled world champion, won the four-man World Cup event at Mount Van Hoevenberg on Sunday, giving the U.S. a 1-2 finish for the second straight day. "I've been saying all summer that we have the strongest U.S. team ever," Holcomb said. "I think today shows that we're going to be a real fighting force out there. We're not going to be pushovers like everybody thought we were going to be. "Winning the world championships here you can become complacent, but we're not," said Holcomb, whose four-man triumph in worlds came last February. "We're stronger than we were last year. I'm excited." Holcomb finished the two-run race in 1 minute, 49.60 seconds to beat teammate John Napier, who rallied from fourth to second on the final run for his second career World Cup medal. Napier, who won the two-man gold on Saturday just ahead of Holcomb, finished 0.44 seconds behind and 0.10 ahead of third-place finisher Wolfgang Stampfer of Austria. "We're deep and we're strong," Napier said. "We're ready to keep winning medals, keep this going." American Mike Kohn, subbing for the injured Todd Hays, finished 14th. Holcomb quickly sent a message on Sunday's first run that he would be the man to beat. Stampfer was the first to slide the 20-curve track, which had remained soft all weekend because of rain and air temperatures well above freezing, and with the benefit of the best ice posted a time of 54.79 seconds. One by one, the next nine drivers in the 23-sled field laid down faster times than Stampfer at the top but steadily lost ground on the way down. Napier watched his 0.27 edge vanish in the final turns, losing nearly a third of a second to finish fourth in 54.86, just behind Ivo Rueegg of Switzerland. Holcomb slid 11th, and his flat-black-painted sled dubbed "Night Train" thundered to the top of the leaderboard. He and his crew of Justin Olsen, Steve Mesler and brakeman Curtis Tomasevicz were ahead by 0.35 midway down, and despite bumping a wall in the chicane and sliding sideways through the uphill portion at the bottom of the tricky layout, finished 0.04 ahead. "The first run I just made a slight mistake in 19 and paid the price," said Holcomb, who had the two fastest starts of the day. "But the day goes to the pushers, 4.96 and 4.94 (seconds at the start), that's pretty huge. They stepped it up. "The advantage goes to the teams off first in this competition, and we were off 11th. We just had an unfortunate draw, but a good push like that we could have that rough ride and stay in the mix." Napier had the second-fastest time, 55.18 seconds, on his second run and was all smiles at the finish, the clang of his mother Betsy's massive gold cowbell echoing in the Adirondack Mountain air and scores of American fans chanting USA! USA! USA! "I made a few mistakes on my first run and I cleaned them all up, luckily, on the second and I think it showed," the 22-year-old Napier, a track rat here since he was a kid, said after a storybook weekend for his family. With two of eight World Cup races in the books and the Vancouver Olympics looming in less than three months, Holcomb tops the two-man standings by two points over Rueegg and is tied for second in four-man with Lyndon Rush of Canada. Napier sits fourth in two-man and fifth in four-man. "With Todd Hays out for now, it's going to be interesting to see him go overseas," Holcomb said of Napier. "With a solid push group behind him, he's going to show that he's a good driver. "There are still other countries in the mix - the Swiss, the Germans - but as long as we keep our momentum going from here, it's going to help us in the long run," Holcomb said. "He (Napier) knows what's on the line." Rush won last week's season-opener in four-man at Park City, Utah, and finished seventh here on Sunday. He blamed a training crash on Wednesday for his so-so finish in Lake Placid. "I still feel like we're underdogs, but I don't mind feeling like an underdog," Rush said. "Just got to keep working hard." German star Andre Lange did not compete here. Lange, the two-time defending Olympic champion in four-man and the 2006 gold winner in two-man, is out indefinitely with a groin injury suffered in Park City. Alexsandr Zubkov of Russia, the defending World Cup champion in four-man, did not start the four-man and Swiss driver Beat Hefti, the defending two-man World Cup champ, skipped the event. "If you would have asked me, I would have said Holcomb would have won both races this weekend, especially with who isn't here," Rush said. "But Napier? That's a great story. It gives me shivers. You could make a movie about it."

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