The team from the United States USA-1 start their first run during the men's four-man bobsled competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics on Saturday in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. Army Capt. Chris Fogt is the brakeman for the U.S. team. (Natacha Pisarenko/The Associated Press)
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KRASNAYA POLYANA, RUSSIA — Steve Holcomb hit the wall on turn 5 in his second run Saturday night, enough of a driving mistake to drop the defending gold medalist and his team to fourth in Olympic four-man bobsled after the first two runs at Sanki Sliding Center.
The USA-1 sled was third after the first run when it posted a track-record 4.75-second start, despite Holcomb competing with a calf injury that’s still not fully healed. Their start time climbed slightly to 4.79 in the second run and 55.47 overall, up from 54.89.
“I’ve got the best push crew in the world,” said Holcomb, who won a bronze medal in two-man bobsled with Steve Langton, also on the USA-1 sled along with Curtis Tomasevicz and Chris Fogt. “I made more mistakes driving than I wanted to, but we’ll fix that for tomorrow. We’ll go back and watch video and make sure I don’t make those mistakes.”
Holcomb said his calf is not painful but still “not firing as well as I’d like. It’s unfortunate that four years of training comes down to I strained my calf and I can’t apply it. I just have to do what I can do and hopefully do what I do best and drive well tomorrow.”
Holcomb’s sled is .17 seconds behind leader Russia-1 and just .01 behind third-place Germany-1. Latvia-1 improved from fifth to second after its second run, .04 behind Russia.
Nick Cunningham, who drives USA-2, got down the track in the first run despite a broken D ring, one of two attached to bungee cords for steering. He managed to use the cord and other D ring for a 14th-place finish in the first run. With the D ring repaired the team, including Justin Olsen, Johnny Quinn and Dallas Robinson, improved to 12th in the second run and stands 11th overall.
“It’s still attached, but my vertical bungees were off,” Cunningham said. “It just means I had a bad line. I didn’t come into a skid, I didn’t hit a wall. I wish I could blame something on seven-tenths behind (in the first run), but I can’t.”
One of the Canadian sleds crashed just before the fastest sleds from the first heat took their second run. All four men walked away, but their long and perilous skid down much of the track took a toll on the ice.
“It creates grooves in the ice, and it can jar the sled a little bit when a runner gets stuck in there,” Holcomb said. “I wish it didn’t happen.”
Holcomb remains confident that his team can win a medal on the final day of the Olympics. “Everybody is kind of looking at us like they kicked our dog,” he said. “We’re not upset. We’re a hundredth out of third place. The Germans know how we perform under pressure, and I’m sure they’re going to have a hard time sleeping tonight.”
Jeff Metcalfe writes for The Arizona Republic.