Steven Holcomb, Olympic champ bobsledder, found dead

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Steven Holcomb, the longtime U.S. bobsledding star who drove to three Olympic medals after beating a disease that nearly robbed him of his eyesight, was found dead in Lake Placid, New York, on Saturday.

He was 37.

The U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Bobsled and Skeleton announced the death of the 2010 gold medalist, the cause of which remains unclear. However, officials said there were no indications of foul play after a preliminary investigation at the Olympic Training Center where Holcomb was found in his room. An autopsy was tentatively scheduled for Sunday.

The native of Park City, Utah, was a three-time Olympian, and his signature moment came at the 2010 Vancouver Games when he piloted his four-man sled to a win that snapped a 62-year gold-medal drought for the U.S. in bobsled’s signature race.

“It would be easy to focus on the loss in terms of his Olympic medals and enormous athletic contributions to the organization, but USA Bobsled and Skeleton is a family and right now we are trying to come to grips with the loss of our teammate, our brother and our friend,” said Darrin Steele, the federation’s CEO who had known Holcomb for two decades.

Holcomb also drove to bronze medals in both two- and four-man events at the Sochi Games in 2014, and was expected to be part of the 2018 U.S. Olympic team headed to the Pyeongchang Games.

He also was a former world champion in both two-man and four-man competition.

“The entire Olympic family is shocked and saddened by the incredibly tragic loss today of Steven Holcomb,” U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun said. “Steve was a tremendous athlete and even better person, and his perseverance and achievements were an inspiration to us all. Our thoughts and prayers are with Steve’s family and the entire bobsledding community.”

MORE: Olympians mourn Holcomb’s death

Holcomb was still one of the world’s elite drivers, finishing second on the World Cup circuit in two-man points and third in four-man points this past season. His final victory came in Lake Placid last December, when he drove to a two-man win.

He was cherubic, almost always happy in public, someone whose sense of humor was well-known throughout the close-knit bobsled world. Teammates even spent a season chronicling his “Holcy Dance,” a little less-than-rhythmic shuffle that he would do at each stop on the World Cup circuit to make fellow sliders laugh.

But at race time, Holcomb turned icy serious.

He won 60 World Cup medals, plus 10 more at the world championships and three in the Olympics, making him one of the most decorated pilots in the world. And when he teamed with Steven Langton to win Olympic bronze in two-man at Sochi in 2014, he snapped another 62-year U.S. drought in that event — just as he had four years earlier in the four-man Olympic race.

“If anyone else has a 62-year medal drought you need to break, let me know, I’ll help you,” Holcomb said at the time.

His winter-sports career started as a skier when he was 6, and he started as a push athlete in bobsled in 1998. He was an alternate on the 2002 Olympic team, and has been the driver of USA-1 — the honor bestowed to America’s best pilot — for more than a decade.

Holcomb revealed in recent years that there was also a troubled side, including battles with depression and a failed hotel-room suicide attempt in 2007 which he wrote about in his autobiography, “But Now I See: My Journey from Blindness to Olympic Gold.”

“After going through all that and still being here, I realized what my purpose was,” Holcomb told the AP in a 2014 interview.

The depression, he believed, largely stemmed from his fight with the disease called keratoconus. Holcomb’s vision degenerated to the point where he was convinced that his bobsled career was ending, and his mood quickly started going dark as well. His eyesight was saved in a surgery that turned his 20-500 vision into something close to perfect, and his sliding career simply took off from there.

Winning gold with push athletes Steve Mesler, Curt Tomasevicz and Justin Olsen at the Vancouver Olympics turned Holcomb into a full-fledged star. In the months that followed, Holcomb met President Barack Obama, played golf with Charles Barkley, hung out with Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes — they were then a couple — visited the New York Stock Exchange, threw the ceremonial first pitch at a Cleveland Indians game and went to the Indianapolis 500.

In the bobsled world, he was larger than life.

Funeral arrangements were not immediately announced.

Matt, Becca Hamilton are first U.S. Olympic mixed doubles curling team

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A brother and sister from Wisconsin will be the busiest athletes at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

A month ago the Hamilton siblings, Matt and Becca, qualified to compete at the Olympics with the U.S. men’s and women’s curling teams, and today they also qualified to play as a mixed doubles team.

With a win over two of their teammates, John Shuster (skip of Matt’s four-man team) and Cory Christensen (alternate on Becca’s four-woman team), at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for mixed doubles curling, the Hamiltons earned the opportunity to curl on potentially every day of the Olympics.

The Hamiltons will start their Olympic competitions with the mixed doubles tournament on Thursday, Feb. 8, the day before the the Opening Ceremony marks the official beginning of the Olympics. When mixed doubles wraps up on Tuesday the 13th, they’ll start playing separately in the men’s and women’s tournaments on Wednesday the 14th. The traditional curling tournaments go until Sunday, Feb. 25, the day of the Closing Ceremony.

Of course, if one of their teams doesn’t advance past the round-robin rounds to the semifinals and medal games, they’ll have some time off. But if they do go all the way to the gold medal matches, it’ll mean 18 straight days of competition for the Hamiltons.

Matt and Becca showed their readiness during the Olympic Trials. They had the second-best record of the round-robin stage, 5-2, then beat Shuster and Christensen twice in two days to win the Olympic berth. The score of the final was 6-5.

After the match, the siblings–who say their partnership works because they can be brutally honest on the ice–had nothing but kind words for each other.

Becca, the younger Hamilton by a year and a half, said her older brother “taught me everything I know.”

Matt then said of Becca, “it’s been impressive to watch her grow up and become the superstar she is now.”

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Jessica Kooreman, Thomas Hong, Ryan Pivirotto earn last three spots on U.S. Olympic short track team

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Jessica Kooreman, Thomas Hong and Ryan Pivirotto grabbed the last three spots on the U.S. Olympic short track team on Sunday as competition wrapped up at the Olympic Trials.

Kooreman survived a fall in the last women’s race of the Trials, the 1000m #2 A Final, to finish second overall in the 1000m and earn a spot on the team that will race on Olympic ice in PyeongChang.

Kooreman, a 2014 Olympian, joined Lana Gehring, a 2010 Olympian and Maame Biney, a 17-year-old who will make her Olympic debut in 2018, on the U.S. Olympic women’s short track team.

At 34 years old, Kooreman will be the veteran of the team. Four years ago, she swept all three events at the 2014 U.S. Olympic Trials and then finished fourth in the 1000m at the Sochi Winter Games.

She struggled to breakthrough to the top spots at this Trials; she finished third overall in both the 1500m on Friday and 500m on Saturday.

Left off the team is Katherine-Reutter Adamek, a two-time Olympic medalist from Vancouver who retired in 2013 due to injuries before coming back in 2016 in hopes of making another Olympic team. Reutter is the American record holder and Olympic silver medalist in the 1000m, but her Olympic aspirations ended when she didn’t qualify for the 1000m #2 A Final today.

Hong, a native of South Korea who moved to the U.S. at 4 years old, finished fourth in the men’s 1000m #2 A Final, and fourth overall. Pivirotto didn’t qualify for that A Final, and had to watch from the sidelines as his Olympic fate was decided. Pivirotto clinched the fifth and final spot by finishing fifth overall across all distances.

The overall winner on the men’s side was John-Henry Krueger, who was nearly undefeated over the three days of racing and won four of six A Finals: both 1000m finals today, the 500m #2 final yesterday and the 1500m #2 final on Friday. 22-year-old Krueger was expected to make the Olympic team four years ago, but had to withdraw from some races at the 2014 U.S. Olympic Trials when he was diagnosed with swine flu.

J.R. Celski, the only member of the team with prior Olympic experience, had an uncharacteristically rough Trials with four falls in three days. However his results when he did stay on his skates were good enough to put him into second-place overall. The third overall men’s skater was Aaron Tran, who also make the Olympic team.

The U.S. Olympic short track team:

Lana Gehring
Maame Biney
Jessica Kooreman
John-Henry Krueger
J.R. Celski
Aaron Tran
Thomas Hong
Ryan Pivirotto

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MORE: J.R. Celski, Maame Biney join U.S. Olympic short track team