USA Bobsled & Skeleton Press Release
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (May 6, 2017)– It is with great sadness that USA Bobsled & Skeleton announces that three-time Olympic bobsled medalist Steven Holcomb (Park City, Utah) was found to have passed away in his sleep at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, N.Y. today. Holcomb, who turned 37 on April 14, was a beloved ambassador for the sport, a mentor, and cornerstone of the U.S. program.
“It would be easy to focus on the loss in terms of his Olympic medals and enormous athletic contributions to the organization, but USA Bobsled & Skeleton is a family and right now we are trying to come to grips with the loss of our teammate, our brother and our friend,” said USA Bobsled & Skeleton CEO Darrin Steele.
Holcomb was known as one of the most decorated bobsled pilots in the world, earning 60 World Cup medals in his career, not including 10 World Championship and three Olympic medals, and five World Championship titles. He made history by breaking a 62-year medal drought at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada after piloting the United States to a gold medal in the four-man event with Justin Olsen, Steve Mesler and Curt Tomasevicz. Four years later at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, Holcomb did it again, only this time as the first American two-man sled to earn a medal in 62 years, a bronze, with brakeman Steve Langton.
“If anyone else has a 62-year medal drought you need to break, let me know, I’ll help you,” Holcomb said jokingly shortly after his bronze medal finish with Langton.
He started his athletic career as a competitive skier when he was only six while living in Park City, Utah
and played in various sports like soccer, football, basketball, baseball and track before he attended a local USA Bobsled team try-out. He began competing as a bobsled push athlete in 1998, racing with drivers Jim Herberich, Mike Dionne, Todd Hays and Brian Shimer. Holcomb narrowly missed making the 2002 Winter Olympic team, but he gained experience on the Olympic stage as a forerunner, launching the start of what would become a legendary driving career.
What made Holcomb’s accomplishments even more extraordinary was that his road to success happened with just 20/500 eyesight. He suffered from keratoconus, an eye disease which weakens the collagen cross fibers within the cornea and leads to streaked and blurred vision. He learned to drive a bobsled by feel instead of by sight, giving him the ability to guide a sled with precision and grace down the mile-long iced tracks. A year before the Vancouver Olympics Holcomb was confronted with the possibly of having to retire from the sport; he was considered legally blind.
USA Bobsled & Skeleton worked with the U.S. Olympic Committee to find a solution, a non-surgical C3-R treatment, which strengthens the cornea through completely non-invasive techniques by Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler, a Beverly Hills ophthalmologist. Holcomb returned to competition, going on to win the 2009 World Championship title. The C3-R procedure was renamed Holcomb C3-R on April 9, 2010. Holcomb’s book, But Now I See: My Journey From Blindness to Olympic Gold, follows his journey through the highs and lows, which included a suicide attempt in 2007 when he was faced with blindness and losing his vocation.
“Going from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs, it was such a surreal moment,” Holcomb said when his vision was restored.
Holcomb was well loved by the international community and finished every race run high-fiving the fans at the finish. Regardless of his result, Holcomb would entertain the media with honest and candid responses to questions. When “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon made Holcomb the butt of an Olympic joke, choosing Holcomb as “the most likely to be found with a chicken wing in his pocket” in a high school yearbook superlative, Holcomb responded on Twitter with “I’m a little offended @jimmyfallon. Seriously, how dare you assume I’m a teriyaki wing guy? I only eat Buffalo style.”
As jovial as Holcomb was at the finish, he never left anything behind at the start line. He was determined to be the best bobsled pilot in the world, and pushed it as hard as he could on every run.
“The way you win a race is by pushing it as hard as you can and letting the sled fly,” Holcomb said. “You have to push it to the edge if you want to win. A lot of drivers play it safe and don’t push it like that, but those aren’t the best drivers. It’s the ones that go for it by taking it to that line as close as possible that win medals.”
Updated information on Holcomb’s passing will be posted on the USA Bobsled & Skeleton website once available.