Steve Holcomb

Steve Holcomb’s bobsled win streak ends in Winterberg

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It took eight races to beat Steve Holcomb this season.

The Olympic four-man champion finished seventh in a two-man event in Winterberg, Germany, on Friday, snapping a seven-race winning streak overall to start the World Cup season.

“I knew coming into this race that it was going to be a challenge,” Holcomb said, according to the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation. “I drive by feel, not by visual cues. I’ve always struggled here, but understanding that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. Knowing that it’s going to be difficult adds pressure, especially since I’ve been undefeated this season.”

Swiss Beat Hefti won by a comfortable .46 of a second in a two-run time of 1 minute, 52.68 seconds. Another American, Cory Butner, took third, .01 behind second place Aleksander Zubkov of Russia.

“It’s hard not to wonder where you lost that and how you could have made up some time,” said Butner, who won his first World Cup medal in Europe. “We have the best equipment, best coaches and techs, and everything is coming together just like it’s supposed to.”

The bobsled World Cup continues with a four-man competition Saturday at 4 a.m. ET on Universal Sports.

Holcomb not winning wasn’t a major shock because his seven-race streak came entirely in North America — Calgary, Alberta, Park City, Utah, and Lake Placid, N.Y. Winterberg is the first of four straight weekends of racing on European tracks, where Holcomb has had far less success.

Holcomb  has not won a World Cup or World Championships two- or four-man race outside of North America since Dec. 13, 2009, also in Winterberg.

Both Holcomb and Nick Cunningham, who was 12th on Friday, crashed in four-man training in Winterberg earlier this week. Holcomb was in the Night Train 2. Cunningham was in the Night Train 1, the sled that won the 2010 Olympic gold medal. Cunningham started driving the Night Train 1 in December and crashed in his fourth run in the sled.

Winterberg Two-Man
1. Beat Hefti/Alex Baumann (SUI) 1:52.68
2. Aleksander Zubkov/Alexey Voeveda (RUS) 1:53.14
3. Cory Butner/Chuck Berkeley (USA) 1:53.15
7. Steve Holcomb/Steve Langton (USA) 1:53.45
12. Nick Cunningham/Justin Olsen (USA) 1:53.72

Lolo Jones on USA-1 in Winterberg

Mikaela Shiffrin wrestles with doubt in seconds before World Cup downhill debut

Mikaela Shiffrin, of the United States, skis during the third training run for the World Cup women's downhill ski race in Lake Louise, Alberta, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)
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After a momentary panic in the start house, Mikaela Shiffrin raced to a tie for 18th in the first downhill of her World Cup career in Lake Louise, Alberta, on Friday.

Shiffrin, the youngest Olympic slalom champion who has also won a World Cup giant slalom, has been slowly adding the speed events of super-G and downhill to her repertoire the last two seasons.

“It wasn’t bad,” Shiffrin said, according to SkiRacing.com. “I certainly didn’t risk anything crazy.”

Her result Friday, 1.99 seconds behind Slovenian winner Ilka Stuhec, came after Shiffrin was 18th, 24th and 30th fastest in downhill training runs the previous three days. Shiffrin also had to wait several minutes in the start house as the racer before her crashed (video here).

“That was just a bummer,” Shiffrin said, according to the Denver Post. “I was like, ‘Just don’t let it affect you,’ but being up there for 10 minutes, like, ‘What happened? What’s taking them so long? What’s going on? Is she hurt?’

“Then I started doubting myself, like my technique going off the jumps, which is actually pretty good. I was going back and forth between, ‘Should I even be doing this? Maybe I just should pull out because I don’t want to kill myself.’ Then I’m like, ‘You’re absolutely fine, you haven’t felt sketched out a single time on this track in the past three days, so stick with that. You don’t have to go crazy.'”

“To be fast in speed there certainly needs to be a certain level of risk, and I know that, but now, if [giant slalom] and slalom are my main priority this season, I don’t need to be going crazy in a downhill with flat light and after I got iced [waiting so long],” Shiffrin said, according to SkiRacing.com.

Stuhec won Friday’s race by .22 of a second over Italian Sofia Goggia. Swede Kajsa Kling was third.

A race replay can be seen here. Full results are here.

Lindsey Vonn, owner of a record 18 wins at Lake Louise, is missing the annual World Cup stop in Alberta due to a broken arm from a November crash. Vonn had raced at Lake Louise each of the previous 15 seasons.

Last season, Shiffrin made her World Cup debut in the super-G at Lake Louise and finished 15th.

The women have another downhill Saturday and a super-G on Sunday in Lake Louise, both streaming live on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app (schedule here).

MORE: Vonn eyes January return from her most painful injury

High-speed crash at World Cup downhill in Lake Louise (video)

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Swiss Joana Haehlen crashed into netting at high speed during a World Cup downhill at Lake Louise, Alberta, on Friday.

Haehlen, 24, lost her right ski after landing from a jump and sped uncontrollably off course. She braced for impact, slammed into red netting and was turned around before landing with neither of her skis still attached.

She lay on the snow while being attended to and eventually skied down the mountain on her own.

It caused a 10-minute delay before the next skier, American Mikaela Shiffrin, could take her run.

VIDEO: Vonn details the most painful injury of her career