Source: Miami Herald - Steve Holcomb and the U.S. four-man bobsled team ended a 62-year drought with a gold medal in their 'Night Train' sled.
Holcomb, driving the shiny blue USA 1 bobsled 93 mph down the most treacherous sliding track in the world, won the four-man race and ended a 62-year Olympic losing streak.
He did it without mishap, without a skid, rub or wobble. Holcomb, who learned to drive a bobsled as his eyesight degengerated, steered more smoothly down the icy chute than most people do on pavement.
He was never unnerved by the carnage he witnessed at the Whistler track, which caused so many crashes it might as well have been surrounded by yellow accident scene tape.
The track always will be remembered as the site of the death of luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, who drove too high through the Thunderbird curve and flew into a concrete post hours before Opening Ceremonies for the 2010 Games.
The luge course was shortened as athletes lamented both the tragedy and the reduction of risk in the "fastest sport on ice."
Dozens of crashes followed, in luge, skeleton and bobsled. Even the favorites in women's bobsled felt the burn of the ice on their backs when their sled turned over.
Holcomb stayed calm and confident as other drivers slammed into walls and flipped. Some withdrew because of injuries - concussions, a bruised spine, a sore neck. The Australians were deemed unfit to negotiate the course.
Then Dutch driver Edwin van Calker decided he lacked the "confidence" to race. Van Calker's brother, Arnold, was hospitalized at Whistler last year. Van Calker saw the wreckage and withdrew.
"Why did the chicken cross the bobsled track?" said van Calker's coach, making a joke about his athlete's courage.
In the brawny sport of bobsled, no one confesses fear. Yet the death of Kumaritashvili haunted the track as dreary fog drifted in and out. One turn was nicknamed "Shiver," Holcomb christened another "50-50," for the chances of getting through it clean.
The world's most dangerous track suited Holcomb perfectly. He drives as much by feel as by sight because he was going blind from a disease called Keratoconus as he moved up the rankings. He retired in 2007, his vision down to 20/600, until coach Brian Shimer - the 2002 bronze medalist from Naples - found a surgeon willing to try an experimental procedure on Holcomb.
"It's like life in HD," Holcomb said after he had lenses embedded.
Still, he drives with a dark visor to dim the details. He wants to feel the contours of the curves.
Maybe the less you could see at Whistler, the better.
Holcomb and his pushers broke the track record twice Friday. With train whistles blowing in the crowd, "Night Train" beat four-time gold medalist Andre Lange by .38 - first Olympic gold for the United States since the 1948 Games.
"It's a difficult track, but no one wanted to go down Lake Placid when it opened in 2000," said Holcomb's teammate Steve Mesler, a former University of Florida decathlete. "Everyone said it was too dangerous. Now we can't wait to get on it."
There were no crashes Saturday.
"My goodness, what do you want, a boring race?" said former Daytona 500 winner Geoff Bodine, who designed the USA sleds. "I know from NASCAR that fans like to see spinouts, pileups and flips. That's why it's a difficult sport. That's why it takes a driver like Steve to win."