LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (AP) — The U.S. bobsled team went nearly 13 years without sweeping all three medal spots in a World Cup race.
It's now happened twice in eight days. With even the head of the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation calling it "kind of surreal," the Americans extended their ridiculous start to this Olympic season on Saturday, when Steven Holcomb added to his undefeated start by driving to yet another win and leading the first U.S. sweep of a World Cup 2-man race.
Holcomb and Chris Fogt finished two runs in 1 minute, 50.19 seconds at Mount Van Hoevenberg. Nick Cunningham and Johnny Quinn were second in 1:50.74, and Cory Butner and Chuck Berkeley were third in 1:50.85 — capping off a sweep that came on the heels of the U.S. women winning a gold and tying for silver at a World Cup race in Park City, Utah last weekend.
"Sometimes, things just come together when they need to," USBSF CEO Darrin Steele said. "It's kind of surreal." Holcomb has now won all six World Cup men's bobsled races this season, four of them coming in 2-man. He extended his lead in the World Cup 2-man standings to 136 points over Cunningham.
But Holcomb was more impressed with the 1-2-3 U.S. finish than extending his own personal start. "That's huge," Holcomb said. "These guys have been performing well all year. For them to finally put it together on the last day of 2-man, last day of the North American tour, I think that's really going to help bring that motivation and confidence into Europe. It's definitely going to be harder over there. We had to take advantage of our North American experience and capitalize on it here because trust me, it's going to get a lot more difficult."
True, but these days, the Americans are making it look easy. Holcomb, Cunningham and Butner were in the top three spots after the first heat, and on a day where sliders were greeted with a race-time air temperature of minus-10, the U.S. proved impossible to catch. No German sled was better than fourth, no Russian sled better than fifth, no Canadian sled better than sixth.
"To sweep the podium, it's obviously something you always want to achieve," U.S. bobsled coach Brian Shimer said. "Not every nation even gets three sleds. To put all three of them on the podium is pretty special. I've seen it a lot of times in my career, but with the Swiss flag flying or with the German flag flying."
This time, it was the red, white and blue that was flying. "It's taken four years to get my first World Cup medal," Quinn said. "Man, this is sweet. ... Things are headed in the right direction." Later Saturday, the U.S. women added to their medal haul for the season, taking silver and bronze.
Canada's Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse laid down a track-record time of 56.63 seconds in the first heat to grab the lead, and they edged Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams of the U.S. by 0.12 seconds.
"To come out to any track and set a record, knowing no one's gone faster than that, it just proves to both of us and it cements that we're where we need to be," Humphries said. Humphries and Moyse finished in 1:53.66. Meyers and Williams were timed in 1:53.78, and Jamie Greubel and Katie Eberling finished third for the U.S. in 1:54.00.
"We're firing on all cylinders, equipment's running well, brakemen are fast," Meyers said. "I would have loved to drive better ... disappointed with my drive, but definitely super-happy with our equipment and our brakemen."
Williams has been in two World Cup races in her rookie season. She's pushed her sled to medals in both, and the former world 100-meter champion who helped the U.S. claim a relay gold at the London Olympics is squarely in the mix for a spot at the Sochi Games.
"There's a steep learning curve with the hitting and the loading," Williams said. "If I get that stuff perfect, we're going to be golden." The third U.S. sled, piloted by Jazmine Fenlator with brakeman Emily Azevedo, finished fourth — and the Americans will head into the second half of the season with three sleds ranked among in the top five in the overall points standings.
"It's been a blast," Greubel said. "I definitely did not expect the season to go this way. Every week has been a surprise, to me. It's really exciting."