Over the coming days, weeks, months, and likely for as long as any of us will be around, countless thoughts will be shared about Steven Holcomb. The man was a legend, both on and off the track.
There’s a large group of people who, when they think of American bobsledding, his is the first name that comes to mind, and rightfully so. The man epitomized everything that was great about the Olympic movement, and all the while carried himself in a way that made you proud to have known him, and to have been a fan of the sport.
Sure, there’s the statistics: Over 60 World Cup medals, five World Championships, three Olympic medals, the list goes on and on. Holcomb was that good, and that alone would make him the greatest bobsledder the Untied States has ever had.
Above all that, though, there was the man Steven Holcomb. As I’ve perused social media, the impact that Holcomb made on his peers is evident. Athletes from every nation have something to say about him, have a story to share, or just a thought about what he meant to them. If it wasn’t already clear while he was on this earth, Steven Holcomb made a huge impact on the lives of so many, both on and off the track. And with that, he’s clearly the greatest bobsledder the United States has ever had.
Holcomb had a way about him that made you felt like he was always happy to chat with you, regardless of the circumstances.
He was the kind of guy who always made you feel like you were just talking to “some guy”, even though this particular “some guy” was a legend. Much like the greatest in NASCAR, Richard Petty, Holcomb always took time for those who supported him.
The couple years after winning medals in Sochi despite a torn achilles were tough on the track for Holcomb. His push obviously suffered, and he and his teams went from being near the top of the charts for start time to mid-pack at best. But even after those runs, there he always was, high-fiving fans, signing autographs, and taking time to show those who had been there that he appreciated it. You don’t always get that from the greats, but you always did with Holcomb.
In Lake Placid in December of 2014, he finished in sixth place in four-man bobsled. It was his worst finish in Lake Placid in a long while. At the medal ceremony, he received his sixth place medal and was visibly disappointed. But afterward, he still made the time to chat with fans, sign autographs, and just be generally welcoming to anyone who had made the effort to come cheer him on.
You don’t get that from all world-class athletes, let alone from one of the greatest in their sport. But he was always a pretty humble guy for someone who had achieved so much.
Maybe Holcomb’s humble nature was because of his well documented comeback from near-blindness. His book, But Now I See: My Journey from Blindness to Olympic Gold, goes into great detail about his struggles, his surgery, and his comeback. Maybe it was just that, unlike many other professional athletes at his level of success, he just appreciated those around him a little more. There’s really no telling.
What we do know is that the world lost a legend on Saturday: A great bobsledder, and an even better man.
My thoughts go out to the extensive group of family, friends, teammates, competitors, and everyone else in between who Steven Holcomb came in contact with. Like most winter sports fans, Steven Holcomb was one of my favorite athletes in the world. His impact on and off the ice will be felt for a long time to come.