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Biathlete, bobsledders compete at Vancouver

Feb. 22, 2010 - 04:42PM   |   Last Updated: Feb. 22, 2010 - 04:42PM  |  
Steven Holcomb: On bobsledding
Steven Holcomb: On bobsledding: U.S. bobsled driver Steven Holcomb gives insight to the fast and dangerous sport. Holcomb is a Utah National Guard veteran and former combat engineer.
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Jeremy Teela, right, fires his rifle during competition Feb. 14. The Men's 10k sprint competition was held at Olympic Park in Whistler, British Columbia, where Teela was the top-placing American at ninth place overall to finish 1:13.9 behind gold medalist Vincent Jay of France, who covered the course in 24:07.8. (SAM RICHE / THE INDIANAPOLIS STAR)

American military biathlete Jeremy Teela had already made U.S. Olympic history prior to the men's 20-kilometer individual biathlon in Whistler, British Columbia, on Feb. 18.

The Army National Guard sergeant finished ninth in the men's 10-kilometer sprint Feb. 14, beating the previous best U.S. Olympic result of 10th in the individual biathlon in 1996.

Biathlon combines cross-country skiing and marksmanship. Teela, 33, drew the No. 13 starting spot and took advantage of the early position — and the favorable course conditions at the time — to finish in 25 minutes, 21.7 seconds.

Circumstances were less accommodating in the men's 12.5-kilometer race Feb. 16. Teela had earned the No. 9 position, but was pushed out of the gate too early and penalized 22 seconds. He finished 24th, Team USA's best showing in that race.

"This never happens," he said, regarding the slip up. "Maybe some guy will get out a couple of seconds early, but when they let you out a complete person ahead ... that never happens."

More problems lay ahead: Teela was a late scratch for the 20-kilometer event after he awoke on race day with sinus problems.

He announced the news on his Twitter account, writing: "Sorry folks I'm bummed too."

Teela later placed 29th in the men's 15 kilometer mass start race Feb. 21.

The bobsledders

None of the three U.S. sleds in the two-man bobsled event was predicted to be medal contenders, and on the final day of competition, sixth place was the team's best result.

The USA-1 sled of Utah National Guard veteran Steven Holcomb and Curt Tomasevicz had the best finish for the Americans on Sunday at the Whistler Sliding Center, with a combined time of 3:27.94 over four heats. USA-1 entered the day in fourth place after the first two heats on Saturday, but fell to fifth after the first heat on Sunday afternoon and dropped one more spot in the final heat.

USA-1 was 1 minute 29 seconds off the pace of gold-medal winning GER-1, with Andre Lange and Kevin Kuske. Germany's top sled finished in 3:26.65. GER-2 took the silver; Russia's No. 1 sled won bronze.

Vermont Army National Guard Sgt. John Napier and Steven Langton were 10th in USA-2, recording a 3:29.40, while Virginia Army National Guard Sgt. Mike Kohn and Nick Cunningham's USA-3 sled was 12th with a 3:29.78.

"With a couple of good runs, we would have been in there even more, but unfortunately, something didn't work out," Holcomb said. "I thought I drove well, we had two good pushes, the sleds were fast, but the Germans had something we didn't today, and that's why they won."

Although Holcomb was disappointed about falling back two spots on Sunday, he was already looking ahead to the four-man bobsled, the United States' best hopes for a podium finish in bobsled.

Holcomb pilots the four-man USA-1 sled, nicknamed the "Night Train," that last year became the first American entrant to win a world Championship in 50 years. His sled also finished first in the overall World Cup standings.

"We have one more event that we're going to dominate in," Holcomb said. "The two-man would have been the icing on the cake and we gave it everything we had to try and win a medal, but it just didn't work out."

The four-man bobsled competition takes place Feb. 26 and 27.

In USA-2, Langton praised the driving of Napier, a first-time Olympian.

"You'd never know this was his first Games the way he's handled the week," Langton said. "He had three great days of training and four great runs. He's a young pilot, and I think his best driving is ahead of him."

Napier was also looking forward to the four-man event, where he will pilot USA-2.

"The two-man is a great learning experience for the four-man," Napier said. "Four man's obviously a lot harder, so every trip in the two-man, I'm working to improve myself, so that way, when I get in the four-man, I'm able to handle the speed, the pressure and the turns."

Kohn wasn't supposed to be in Canada . The forced retirement of Todd Hays after he suffered a brain injury in a bobsled crash last December led to Kohn's selection to the Olympic team. He will pilot the four-man USA-3 sled.

"Twelfth place in the Olympic Games — there's worse things in life for a 37-year-old washed-up guy," Kohn said.

"I feel pretty good. I felt confident on the track, and got Nick (Cunningham) some experience. I wish Todd Hays was here, but we're thinking of him and I know he's back home right now and probably not really happy, but we're doing the best we can for him, for the country and everybody else."

USA-3 turned sideways on a middle section of the track, but recovered.

"If you've ever driven a car and you broke away on ice, that's what it feels like, going sideways there," Kohn said. "It's just, don't panic. Pull back on the ropes and try to get it under control as much as you can."

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