U.S. bobsled champion Holcomb visits Baltimore

Pilot of USA-1 shows off gold medal at Under Armour headquarters

March 09, 2010|By Candus Thomson

In his drive to Olympic gold in four-man bobsled last month, Steve Holcomb managed to steer clear of the bumps and treacherous bends that flipped and swallowed up the competition.

But the world's best driver could do nothing to protect the polished edge of his medal, which now has two small dings - tiny mementos of Monday's whirlwind trip to Baltimore.

"It doesn't come with an owner's manual," said Holcomb somewhat sheepishly as he rubbed his thumb over the new blemishes caused by a collision with a wooden table.

He could have put the medal away for safekeeping, but instead Holcomb allowed employees of Under Armour to hold it and pose with it - his way of saying thanks to some of the people who helped get him to the starting line in Vancouver. Under Armour supplied the speed suits and other apparel used by USA Bobsled.

"It's America's medal," Holcomb told one employee who waited in line in the cafeteria for an autograph and a photo. "A lot of people don't really notice, but when we race, [the sled] says 'United States,' it doesn't say 'Steve Holcomb' on it."

While some people brought sports magazine covers to have autographed, one employee brought the design drawings of the bobsled suits and another brought an actual speed suit to be signed. No one turned down the offer to hold the undulating disk hanging from a two-tone blue ribbon, at 1.22 pounds one of the heaviest medals in Olympic history.

"He just handed it over," marveled Bridget Meredith, a new employee. "He's the first athlete I've ever met."

Holcomb and teammates Justin Olsen, Steve Mesler and Curt Tomasevicz rode USA-1 - the Night Train - to Olympic gold, ending a 62-year winless streak and beating Germany's Andre Lange, the most decorated bobsled driver in the history of the sport.

"It was sweet," Holcomb said. "The Germans hadn't lost four-man since 1994. To take him off the top, not only him but the Germans off the top, is a feat in itself."

Since then, it's been nonstop personal appearances: riding in a NASCAR racer, meeting Tom Hanks, performing the Top 10 list on "Late Show with David Letterman," appearing on NBC's "Today" show and being serenaded by fans at a New York Rangers- Pittsburgh Penguins hockey game, with chants of "USA, USA."

The action won't stop until next month, when Holcomb will get some downtime at home in Park City, Utah, before the bobsled season starts again in October. Sharing the gold is helping "make the surreal real," Holcomb said.

The pilot expects he'll have his whole crew back - even Mesler, who has hinted at retirement.

"Winning the world championships was cool, but this," said Holcomb, holding the gold medal, "it was nothing compared to this. This is addictive."

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