Steven Holcomb
Getty Images

Steven Holcomb mulled retirement after bobsled setbacks

1 Comment

Steven Holcomb thought it may have been a sign. Maybe it’s time to pack it up. Find something else to do.

Retire from bobsled.

Holcomb, a 2010 Olympic four-man champion and three-time Olympic medalist driver, lost two of his three push athletes to injuries during recent U.S. national team selection races. He was on the verge of retirement.

Only two men’s sleds are funded by U.S. Bobsled, so any setback in selection races that determine who gets those sleds is crucial.

At age 36, in a sport where Holcomb knows money can be hard to come by, and his last two years plagued by injury, it got the veteran thinking about his future.

“I knew I had a lot of close friends that are retired Olympians, and the most common piece of advice I get is make sure you have something to fall back on, a little bit of financial security when you retire,” Holcomb said in a phone interview last week. “I’m already in debt in this sport. It’s an incredibly expensive sport.”

Holcomb learned push athlete Ryan Bailey, also a 2012 Olympic 100m sprinter, would be unavailable eight days before four-man selection races in Park City, Utah, two weeks ago.

Holcomb had no pool of viable push athletes in Park City from which to choose a replacement, since everybody was already competing in other sleds against Holcomb.

So he called Casey Wickline, a firefighter and national-team push athlete last season who had performed poorly in preseason testing this year and had gone back to his native South Carolina. Wickline agreed to help and was flown in.

Holcomb and push athletes Carlo Valdes, Sam McGuffie and Wickline finished in third place in their four-man selection race on Nov. 2. It was the penultimate selection race.

Codie Bascue had already all but sewn up first place and the first of two funded sleds. To earn that second spot, Holcomb needed to beat fellow Olympian Nick Cunningham in the final selection race Nov. 3.

But Holcomb’s hopes were dealt another blow when McGuffie, a former University of Michigan running back, was ruled out of the last selection race due to a hamstring injury.

Again, Holcomb was scrambling for a replacement, but unlike with Bailey, he had mere hours to find one this time.

Thankfully, former push athlete turned skeleton slider Nic Taylor (husband of two-time Olympic medalist Elana Meyers Taylor) was in Park City. Taylor would fill McGuffie’s spot in the final race.

With his slapped-together team, Holcomb finished second to Bascue in the last selection race. Cunningham was fourth, putting Holcomb in second place overall and safely into a funded sled.

Now, a healthy Holcomb is preparing for the start of the World Cup season the first weekend of December at the 2010 Olympic track in Whistler, B.C., where he won gold.

The last two seasons have been a struggle for Holcomb — two podiums in 32 World Cup races. His best finish at the 2015 and 2016 World Championships was ninth.

Holcomb earned two bronze medals at the Sochi Olympics despite competing on a partially torn Achilles, which bothered him in the 2014-15 season. Then he tore a quad muscle last December.

“I’m on my way out,” said Holcomb, who stressed that sponsor Under Armour has helped him financially get through non-Olympic years. “I can’t really see myself going for another six years [to the 2022 Olympics]. I’m getting to the point where I’m getting a little old in the sport.”

Holcomb said he will likely compete in his last world championships this season, since there are no worlds in Olympic years. Bobsled and skeleton worlds will be in Sochi in February.

Given Russia’s anti-doping issues, especially at the Sochi Olympics, some skeleton sliders have said they’re considering boycotting worlds.

“We discussed this as a team, we’re up in the air,” Holcomb said. “We don’t know what we’re going to do yet. Safety is a concern. What are the chances I go there, and all of a sudden Russian anti-doping tests me, and I [falsely] test positive? That wouldn’t surprise me in the least. Being outspoken, yeah I’m a little nervous about going there.”

MORE: Sarajevo Olympic track restored, in use again after Bosnian war

Yulia Efimova wags finger as Lilly King rivalry heats up (video)

Leave a comment

The Lilly KingYulia Efimova rivalry is back on, but this time the Russian is wagging her finger.

Efimova missed the 100m breaststroke world record by .01 in the semifinals at the world swimming championships in Budapest on Monday.

Efimova celebrated her time by finger wagging, an homage to King’s famous move in the ready room at the Rio Olympics.  She and King will go head to head in the final as the top two seeds on Tuesday after King won her later semifinal in a personal-best time .17 slower than Efimova.

“I’m always looking at the results from the heat before,” King told media in Budapest, adding that she wasn’t shaved for Monday’s semifinals. “I saw a little finger wag. I saw it. It’s just motivating me more, so that’s OK.”

King, who criticized Efimova’s presence in Rio after serving a doping ban, beat the Russian in the Olympic 100m breaststroke final last year.

Efimova served a 16-month ban for testing positive for the banned steroid DHEA in 2013. She again tested positive in February 2016 for meldonium, though she said she stopped taking it before it became a banned substance Jan. 1 and was absolved along with other athletes.

“You’ve been caught for drug cheating, I’m just not a fan,” King memorably said in Rio, adding last fall, “[Doping] was on all of our minds. We had team meetings talking about what it was going to be like. We were going to be racing dopers, and we all knew it.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

WORLDS: TV Schedule | Men’s Preview | Women’s Preview | Schedule/Results

Katinka Hosszu wins 200m IM as swimmer leaves pool mid-race (video)

Leave a comment

Hungarian Katinka Hosszu delivered the gold-medal performance a raucous Budapest crowd hoped for at the world swimming championships.

Canadian Sydney Pickrem, a medal favorite, appeared to get out of the pool after 50 meters. Swimming Canada later said she “took on water” approaching the first wall.

“Unfortunately it inhibited her to the point where she wasn’t able to continue in the race,” a press release said.

Hosszu won her third straight world title in the 200m individual medley, clocking 2:07.00 at the Danube Arena. The Olympic champion and world-record holder was followed by Japan’s Yui Ohashi (2:07.91) and American Madisyn Cox (2:09.71).

Hosszu was the overwhelming favorite, given she held the three fastest times in the world this year going into Monday’s final. She became the first woman to win 10 individual world championships medals, a mark that Sarah SjostromKatie Ledecky and Yulia Efimova can surpass later in the meet. Retired Australian Leisel Jones won nine, all in breaststroke.

Hosszu scratched her other event Monday night, the 100m backstroke, one of three events she won at the Rio Olympics. Hosszu could earn medals in the 200m backstroke and 400m individual medley later this week.

Pickrem ranked No. 3 in the world this year and had the third-fastest time in the semifinals behind Hosszu and American Melanie Margalis, who finished fourth.

“Just another stepping stone,” said Cox, who finished her University of Texas career this year and made her major international debut in Budapest. “Of course, I want to be better. That time will come.”

Women’s 200m Individual Medley Results
Gold: Katinka Hosszu (HUN) — 2:07.00
Silver: Yui Ohashi (JPN) — 2:07.91
Bronze: Madisyn Cox (USA) — 2:09.71
4. Melanie Margalis (USA) — 2:09.82
5. Runa Imai (JPN) — 2:09.99
6. Kim Seoyeong (KOR) — 2:10.40
7. Siobhan-Marie O’Connor (GBR) — 2:10.41
DQ. Sydney Pickrem (CAN)

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

WORLDS: TV Schedule | Men’s Preview | Women’s Preview | Schedule/Results