PARK CITY, Utah - Team USA I struggled to cross the finish line in medal position after Steven Holcomb suffered a mild strain on his right hamstring during training on Monday. The famous "Night Train" four-man bobsled squad was in second after the first heat, but slid into sixth position in Saturday's World Cup competition in Park City, Utah.
While the injury isn't major, Holcomb prefers to play it safe rather than be sorry.
"I'm getting treated now and hope to be healthier to push next week," Holcomb said, referring to the World Cup bobsled that will be coming to Lake Placid Friday through Sunday. "It's been a tough week, but luckily it's not the Olympics today. I can take some fifth place results over sitting out with an injury."
Holcomb and his push squad of Justin Olsen, Steve Langton and Curt Tomasevicz powered the sled off the start in 4.83 seconds in the first heat. Holcomb guided the crew to the finish in 47.40 seconds, just five-hundredths from the lead on his home track.
With friends, family and fans cheering at the start, the U.S. crew pushed 4.88 seconds in the final heat. Despite threading together a seamless run, Holcomb's crew fell into sixth place with a two-run total of 1 minute, 34.92 seconds.
"Today shows the caliber of athletes I have pushing with me," Holcomb said. "I was just running along beside the sled without applying any force, and the three guys on my team were able to keep me in the mix."
Holcomb was shocked when he saw his time and the crew was visibly disappointed. Tomasevicz said he couldn't recollect losing a four-man race in Park City, but Holcomb is optimistic that they will once again be in medal position in Lake Placid on the track they won the 2009 World Championship title.
"I'm not sure why we weren't faster," Holcomb said. "I know we'll do well next week, and our goal is to maintain our rank so that we have a good draw for World Championships in Germany this year. We want to defend our title."
Russian Alexander Zubkov swept the Park City events, claiming gold by just 0.03 seconds. Zubkov teamed with Phillipp Egorov, Dmitry Trunenkov and Nikokay Hrenkov for a combined time of 1:34.62 to maintain his lead in overall points.
Manuel Machata further confirmed that he is following in the footsteps of German bobsled legend Andre Lange after winning his third consecutive World Cup medal in his debut season. Machata teamed with Andreas Bredau, Michail Makarow and Christian Poser for second place with a total time of 1:34.65. Machata was in fifth after the first run, but snuck up to claim silver after posting the fastest time of the second heat.
Canadian Lyndon Rush put himself back on the podium, along with teammates Chris le Bihan, Cody Sorensen and Neville Wright. The crew crossed the finish line in 1:34.72 for bronze.
John Napier of Lake Placid was close to cracking the top 10, but missed out by just 0.07 seconds to finish 11th. While drivers on the World Cup tour have banked several weeks of training this season, Napier continues to play catch up since returning to sliding just two weeks ago.
Napier and his push squad of Jesse Beckom, Colin Campbell and Laszlo Vandracsek are still learning the tempo together, but were in the mix with push times of 4.93 and 4.95 seconds. Napier guided his sled to the finish in 47.78 and 47.72 seconds for a combined time of 1:35.50.
"This is the first time we've run this crew," Napier said. "We're still working together and new. It's my second week back on the ice and we've got a couple of rookies on the sled. The guys did a phenomenal job."
Ethan Albrecht-Carrie of North Tonawanda teamed with Dan Royal, Sean Hopkins and Mike Snyder to finish 15th with a total time of 1:37.01. The rookie crew competed for the first time together to post start times of 5.22 and 5.26 for runs of 48.70 and 48.31 seconds, respectively.
"We were just off," Albrecht-Carrie said. "We had a bunch of small mistakes on the first run that added up big time. We tried to come back on the second run. I made a few more mistakes, but we could have been a little more in the mix. Some nights you have it, other nights you don't. We're here to gain experience and gain consistency."