Steven Holcomb mulled retirement after bobsled setbacks

Steven Holcomb
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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.”

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Olympian Derrick Mein ends U.S. men’s trap drought at shotgun worlds

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Tokyo Olympian Derrick Mein became the first U.S. male shooter to win a world title in the trap event since 1966, prevailing at the world shotgun championships in Osijek, Croatia, on Wednesday.

Mein, who grew up on a small farm in Southeast Kansas, hunting deer and quail, nearly squandered a place in the final when he missed his last three shots in the semifinal round after hitting his first 22. He rallied in a sudden-death shoot-off for the last spot in the final by hitting all five of his targets.

He hit 33 of 34 targets in the final to win by two over Brit Nathan Hales with one round to spare.

The last U.S. man to win an Olympic trap title was Donald Haldeman in 1976.

Mein, 37, was 24th in his Olympic debut in Tokyo (and placed 13th with Kayle Browning in the mixed-gender team event).

The U.S. swept the Tokyo golds in the other shotgun event — skeet — with Vincent Hancock and Amber English. Browning took silver in women’s trap.

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Mo Farah withdraws before London Marathon

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British track legend Mo Farah withdrew before Sunday’s London Marathon, citing a right hip injury before what would have been his first 26.2-mile race in nearly two years.

Farah, who swept the 2012 and 2016 Olympic track titles at 5000m and 10,000m, said he hoped “to be back out there” next April, when the London Marathon returns to its traditional month after COVID moved it to the fall for three consecutive years. Farah turns 40 on March 23.

“I’ve been training really hard over the past few months and I’d got myself back into good shape and was feeling pretty optimistic about being able to put in a good performance,” in London, Farah said in a press release. “However, over the past 10 days I’ve been feeling pain and tightness in my right hip. I’ve had extensive physio and treatment and done everything I can to be on the start line, but it hasn’t improved enough to compete on Sunday.”

Farah switched from the track to the marathon after the 2017 World Championships and won the 2018 Chicago Marathon in a then-European record time of 2:05:11. Belgium’s Bashir Abdi now holds the record at 2:03:36.

Farah returned to the track in a failed bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, then shifted back to the roads.

Sunday’s London Marathon men’s race is headlined by Ethiopians Kenenisa Bekele and Birhanu Legese, the second- and third-fastest marathoners in history.

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