Holcomb out to thwart Germans again

Fri Jan 31, 2014 12:01pm EST
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By Justin Palmer

(Reuters) - Steve Holcomb broke Germany's stranglehold on men's bobsleigh when he piloted the American four-man team to Olympic gold four years ago, the first for the U.S. since 1948, but faces a tough battle to defend his title.

Holcomb won the first three four-man races in the U.S. but has been unable to maintain the flying start since the circuit switched to Europe, and has been surpassed in the overall standings by German Maximilian Arndt, the world champion, and Russian Alexander Zubkov.

The American is also among the favorite to land two-man gold but told Reuters that the Sanki Sliding Centre track, located near Krasnaya Polyana, was technical but not as fast as Whistler.

"It's easier to get down, you're not going to have a lot of crashes but the problem is it's not easy to get down quickly," he said.

"It's a little bit of a disadvantage to me and the other experienced drivers. Whistler separated the experienced drivers from the less experienced drivers... if you look at the (2010) results, all drivers that had been around for a long time were on the podium."

The track has three slightly uphill sections to reduce speed

with the safety of competitors paramount in the design after Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died after crashing during a training run in Whistler.

Holcomb's 2010 triumph ended a run of four successive German golds in the four-man bob stretching back to Lillehammer in 1994 - denying the now-retired Andre Lange, the most successful bobsleigh pilot of all time, a podium sweep in both disciplines.   Continued...

Olympic Gold Medalist Steve Holcomb attends the premiere of "Project Natal for XBox 360" in Los Angeles June 13, 2010. REUTERS/Phil McCarten