sochi 2014

Steve Holcomb

Steven Holcomb competed at Olympics with torn Achilles

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That calf strain that Steven Holcomb fought through to win two bronze medals in Sochi was actually a torn Achilles, according to the bobsledder’s social media.

Before the diagnosis, Holcomb said his two- and four-man bobsled teams could have won two silver medals in Sochi if not for his injury.

“Unfortunately, my calf injury held us back,” Holcomb said at the Best of U.S. Awards in Washington last week. “These guys [teammates] rose to the occasion. I couldn’t push quite as hard as I wanted to.”

Holcomb said gold medals, even if healthy, were out of reach because of Russian Aleksandr Zubkov‘s experience on his home-nation track. Zubkov’s sled set track records in winning both the two- and four-man competitions.

Holcomb and his four-man teammates Chris FogtSteven Langton and Curt Tomasevicz haven’t seen too much of each other since Sochi after essentially living together in the previous six months.

Holcomb said he will continue his break until May or June. Tomasevicz, 33 and the only push athlete on both the 2010 and 2014 sleds, has retired.

“There’s going to be 100 second thoughts,” Tomasevicz said last week. “Come September, October, it’s going to be tough sitting around, watching, and not being a part of it. Hopefully, I’ll find something else to occupy my focus.”

The Army Capt. Fogt will go back on active duty in May, heading to Fort Huachuca in Arizona. He expects to spend six months there and then around a year and a half “wherever the Army sends me.” He speculated Germany, Korea or Georgia.

“I’m very, very excited,” said Fogt, who hopes to return to bobsledding before the 2018 Olympics. “After the last [Olympics], I went to Iraq for a year. That was my first love. I joined the Army in 2005 and started bobsledding in 2007. It’s been a great experience. I’m very much looking forward to the opportunity of being a regular Joe and working with soldiers again.”

What U.S. Olympians told President Obama at White House

What U.S. Olympians told President Obama at White House

Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Jon Lujan, Julie Chu
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WASHINGTON — Sage Kotsenburg joked that he would say “What’s up dog?” to President Obama on Thursday. Actually, the coolest part of their meeting at the White House was spoken by Obama.

“He said I was chill,” Kotsenburg said, smiling, shortly before Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama addressed a group of Sochi Olympians and Paralympians stretching their arms in the air to take photos of them at a room inside the White House.

Obama said more than that to Kotsenburg, the first Olympic snowboard slopestyle champion. An estimated more than 200 Olympians and Paralympians met the Obamas (and some saw their dogs, too) over a 90-minute to two-hour stretch.

“[Obama] goes, ‘Sage, this guy was like the favorite moment of the Games. He had the sickest interview, chill,'” Kotsenburg said. “I had no idea what to say. He watched all my interviews or something. He was down. He said I was chill.”

The humor-filled Kotsenburg joked on “TODAY” earlier Thursday that he would tell Obama, “What’s up dog?” He later carried around a bouquet of vegetables — “brussel sprouts and green beans,” he thought — picked from a kitchen garden on the South Lawn.

But when the meeting finally happened, he was at a loss for words.

“I was too mind blown from what [Obama] said,” Kotsenburg said. “I managed to get some stuff out, ‘Thanks. It was awesome that you watched.’ I said thanks probably 100 times.”

Kotsenburg did not get a selfie with Obama, like Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz managed Tuesday. The athletes handed over their phones before meeting the Obamas, but a White House photographer snapped more official images.

What did other Olympians tell the president?

“I asked him if he wanted to try skeleton,” skeleton slider John Daly said. “He said maybe. He said it looked a little too crazy.”

Snowboard cross bronze medalist Alex Deibold came away from his meeting cherishing his hug with the first lady and impressed with the president’s firm handshake and smile.

“They tell you, don’t make any quick actions, don’t stick anything in your pocket,” Deibold said while wearing his bronze medal. “I wanted to be like, ‘Hey, have you guys actually gotten to see these [medals] yet?’ When I see military personnel, they see us walking by, I take it off and hand it to people. They’re really cool. I try and share it with as many people as I can, but in there I decided that it was probably best to be professional.

“I got the hug from Michelle, which was something I was really looking forward to. A good, firm handshake [from the president]. Barack has a great smile. I don’t know if he practices that, but I’m sure it’s something that he has to do all the time.”

Luger Kate Hansen had her heart set on recording video of her dancing with the first lady. That wasn’t possible, but the first lady still made a move or two as the Obamas were very engaging to all the athletes on a personal level, a U.S. Olympic Committee spokesperson said.

In his address to the entire delegation, Obama opened by joking about one Olympian in particular.

“We double checked to make sure that all the bathroom locks are working in case [bobsledder] Johnny Quinn tried to bust down some of these antique doors,” Obama said. “We didn’t want that to happen.”

Obama also made reference to slopesyle skiing silver medalist Gus Kenworthy‘s adoption of Sochi stray dogs.

“That doesn’t count in the medal standings,” Obama said, “but it tells you something about the freestyle skiers.

“I would personally like to thank all of our snowboarders and freestyle skiers for making newscasters across America say things like, ‘Air to fakie,’ and the ‘Back-to-back double cork 1260,'” Obama added. “I don’t know what that means, but I just wanted to say it. I’m pretty sure I’m the first president to ever say that.”

On slalom gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin‘s dream to win five gold medals at the 2018 Olympics?

“I’ve just got three words of advice,” Obama said. “Go for it.”

Obama closed with the story of skeleton silver medalist Noelle Pikus-Pace, who missed the 2006 Olympics after she broke a leg when a bobsled collided with her on a track, then finished .01 out of a medal in 2010, retired and came back to compete in Sochi as a mother of two.

“Life is never going to go as planned,” Obama read as a quote from Pikus-Pace, who was not in attendance Thursday. “You have to decide when you’re bumped off course if it’s going to hold you back or move you forward. … That’s the spirit we celebrate today.”

In one final remark, Obama told the young athletes, “Don’t tear up the place.”

“We already did!” shouted a female voice in response. A few athletes said afterward that exclamation came from Olympic halfpipe champion Kaitlyn Farrington.

Here were some of the Olympians’ and Paralympians’ social media highlights from the White House visit:

Kotsenburg among winners at Best of U.S. Awards

Kotsenburg, Davis/White, Pikus-Pace among Best of U.S. Awards winners

Sage Kotsenburg
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WASHINGTON – Sage Kotsenburg, Erin Hamlin, Meryl Davis and Charlie White and Noelle Pikus-Pace earned top honors at the first Best of U.S. Awards at Warner Theatre on Wednesday night.

Kotsenburg, the first Olympic snowboard slopestyle champion, won Male Athlete of the Sochi Olympics. He beat fellow gold medalists Joss Christensen (ski slopestyle), Ted Ligety (giant slalom) and David Wise (ski halfpipe). All awards were decided by fan voting.

“I didn’t really prepare a speech,” Kotsenburg said after being presented with his award from two-time Olympic softball medalist Jennie Finch. “I didn’t know this was an awards show until last night.”

Hamlin, who won the first U.S. Olympic singles luge medal (bronze), earned Female Athlete of the Olympics over gold medalists Jamie Anderson (snowboard slopestyle), Maddie Bowman (ski halfpipe) and Mikaela Shiffrin (slalom).

“This is unreal,” Hamlin said after getting her award from 2010 Olympic figure skating champion Evan Lysacek. “Luge, like most of you know, isn’t the most popular sport. … People know what it is now a little bit, I think. It’s a step in the right direction.”

Davis and White, the first U.S. Olympic ice dancing champions, won Team of the Olympics over U.S. men’s and women’s bobsled bronze and silver medalists.

Pikus-Pace, a mother of two who slid to skeleton silver, was chosen Moment of the Olympics winner for her post-race celebration.

“We’ve all been through so much, so many moments to get to this point in our lives,” Pikus-Pace said. “That was just a glimpse of the gratitude that I feel in my heart for all those that have helped me to get to this moment.”

Pikus-Pace won over T.J. Oshie’s shootout performance to beat Russia, the men’s slopestyle skiing podium sweep, the men’s short track relay silver and Bode Miller becoming the oldest Alpine skiing medalist at 36.

NBC’s Willie Geist hosted the event honoring the best American performances from the Sochi Olympics and Paralympics. The U.S. finished second in the Olympic medal table with 28 total, its most ever at an Olympics held outside North America.

Figure skating analysts Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski conducted interviews with each winner, and Stephen Colbert even made a video appearance. The show will air on NBCSN on Monday at 7 p.m. ET.

The sled hockey gold medalists won Team of the Paralympics and took selfies on stage.

Alpine skiing medalists Mark Bathum (two silvers) and Stephanie Jallen (two bronzes) were named Male and Female Athletes of the Paralympics.

Jallen also won Moment of the Paralympics for taking a medal in her Paralympic debut.

Remembering the 2000 U.S. Olympic Baseball Team