The team from the United States USA-1, piloted by Steven Holcomb, left, and brakeman Steven Langton, celebrate their bronze medal win Feb. 17 after the men's two-man bobsled competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (Dita Alangkara / AP)
Steven Holcomb with Steven Langton compete in the final heat of two-man bobsleigh during the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Sanki Sliding Center. (John David Mercer / USA Today Sports)
KRASNAYA POLYANA, RUSSIA — The mantra for all three USA bobsled teams going into the Sochi Olympics was “prepare-to-podium.”
USA-1, led by Army veteran Steven Holcomb with brakeman Steve Langton, ended a 62-year U.S. drought Monday night, taking the bronze medal.
Russia-1, led by pilot Alexander Zubkof, posted the fastest time of four heats at the Sanki Sliding Center for the gold at 3:45.39. Switzerland’s Beat Hefti’s SUI-1 was .66 seconds behind. USA-1 was down .88 seconds.
USA-2, with pilot Cory Butner of Yucaipa, Calif., and brakeman Army Capt. Christopher Fogt of Alpine, Utah, finished 12th.
USA-3, piloted by Army Sgt. Nick Cunningham of Monterey, Calif., with brakeman Army Sgt. Dallas Robinson of Georgetown, Ky., finished 13th.
Fogt, a veteran of the 2010 Winter Games, said the team faced challenges coming into the Sochi track.
“This track is very, very hard with the uphill portions and the limited runs we’ve had,” he said. While the USA teams had about 40 practice runs, the Russian teams had 300 to 400.
Despite that, Holcomb managed to secure a medal for Team USA. And he expects it will happen again on Feb. 22-23. when the four-man heats occur.
Fogt will join Holcomb, Langton and Curt Tomasevicz in the four-man sled.
“If anyone can do it, it’s Holcomb,” Fogt said. “He is the best pilot in the world.”
Cunningham was thrilled to see his countryman Holcomb break through.
“Holcomb is a guy who’s been a mentor to me, a guy who’s always been there. If I’m not going to win it, I want either Cory (Butler) or Holcomb to win it,” Cunningham said. “To have him go out there and win is huge. It elevates everybody. It motivates us.”
Cunningham said he was proud of the team’s accomplishment and of his effort.
“It was really fun,” he said. “Finishing 13th in the Olympic Games was fun. It’s something that I will never hang my head over. I’m still very proud. I did the best that I could. When you do that, you finish where you finish.
“That’s how Dallas and I were able to get out of the sled with a smile just because we knew that we gave it everything that we had.”
Cunningham, Fogt and Robinson are part of the Army’s World Class Athlete Program. It pays athletes to train full-time and in return, the team “hosts clinics for soldiers and act as goodwill ambassadors for the Army and the United States at international games,” according to the Army.
Cunningham will run USA’s second four-man sled with Robinson, Justin Olsen and Johnny Quinn.
“We’re going to regroup. Tomorrow is a day off, and we’re going to focus on that four-man, get it set up, and we’re going to keep that P-to-P moto – Prepare to Podium,” he said.
“We’re going to go out and do that race and try to podium just like we did here.”
Bellisle writes for the Reno Gazette-Journal.