KOENIGSSEE, Germany (Feb. 26, 2017)- Steven Holcomb (Park City, Utah), Carlo Valdes (Newport Beach, Calif.), Jimmy Reed (Garmisch, Germany) and Sam McGuffie (Cypress, Texas) scarcely missed the medals in the four-man bobsled World Championships today, and the crew was visibly disheartened with a fifth place finish.
"This is really hard to swallow for these guys," said USA Bobsled Head Coach Brian Shimer. "Holcomb's team is starting to show signs of greatness and they've come a long way for such a young push crew, and Holcomb continues to get back to his old self after a couple of years of injuries. I know he's got to be really disappointed, but this race showed we're taking a big step in the right direction."
Latvians Oskars Melbardis, Daumants Dreiskens, Arvis Vilkaste and Janis Strenga were in third going into today, but Melbardis opened the door for Team Holcomb with a major mistake down the course in heat three. Team Holcomb took advantage of the opportunity to move up by powering the sled off in 4.81 seconds, posting the fastest velocity loading into the sled before Holcomb threaded together a run of 48.66 seconds. Their run was enough to temporarily move the crew into third before Germans Nico Walther, Kevin Kuske, Kevin Koronia and Eric Franke nudged Team Holcomb back into fourth by a mere 0.01 seconds. With just 0.01 seconds separating second place from the lead and 0.01 seconds between fourth and third, the medals would be decided in the fourth and final run.
Melbardis responded in the final heat with a start time of 4.73 and downtime of 48.56 seconds. Team Holcomb rallied together for an outstanding push time of 4.79 seconds, their best start time of the competition, but the sled broke into a skid in the Bendaway and Team USA fell back 0.05 seconds from the Latvians. Holcomb, Valdes, Reed and McGuffie finished fifth, 0.18 seconds outside of the medals, with a four-run combined time of 3:14.44.
"That mistake out of S-4 was just enough for Melbardis to nip him," Shimer said. "S-4 caught everyone off guard at some point this week, it can be tricky. Holcomb got into a new sled that he's never driven until this week, so for him to give the Germans a run for their money in a sled he just got in says a lot about his ability."
Despite his visible disappointment after the final run, Holcomb, always a sportsman, climbed out of the sled and high-fived fans at the finish.
In a nail-biting finish, Team Germany swept the medals on their home track. Johannes Lochner, Matthias Kagerhuber, Joshua Bluhm and Christian Rasp tied their teammates Francesco Friedrich, Florian Bauer, Martin Grothkopp and Thorsten Margis for the title with a combined time of 3:14.10. Nico Walther, Kevin Kuske, Kevin Korona and Eric Franke completed the sweep after clocking a total of 3:14.26 for bronze.
Olympic winning push athlete turned pilot Justin Olsen (San Antonio, Texas) teamed with Austin Landis (Nashville, Tenn.), Evan Weinstock (Las Vegas, Nev.) and Sam Michener (Gresham, Ore.) for 11th place with a total time of 3:15.30. This is Olsen's World Championship debut in the driver's seat, and the decorated push athlete's crew is consistently one of the fastest off the start block. The crew clocked identical starts of 4.81 seconds in today's final heats for runs of 49.01 and 48.96 seconds, and team Olsen narrowly missed the top-10 by just 0.14 seconds.
Nick Cunningham (Monterey, Calif.), Frank Del Duca (Bethel, Me.), Adrian Adams (Reidsville, N.C.) and Christopher Kinney (Stockbridge, Ga.) finished 17th with a four-run combined time of 3:15.73. The crew posted starts of 4.88 and 4.91 seconds for runs of 49.08 and 49.02 seconds, respectively, today.
The four-man final heats conclude the 2017 World Championships. Visit NBCSN for same-day delayed coverage of the event. The teams move on to the site of the 2018 Olympics in South Korea for the eighth and final World Cup of the 2016-2017 season.
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1. Francesco Friedrich, Candy Bauer, Martin Grothkopp and Thorsten Margis (GER) 3:14.10 (48.39, 48.46, 48.60, 48.65);
1. Johannes Lochner, Matthias Kagerhuber, Joshua Bluhm and Christian Rasp (GER) (48.26, 48.56, 48.64, 48.64);
3. Nico Walther, Kevin Kuske, Kevin Korona and Eric Franke (GER) 3:14.26 (48.48, 48.54, 48.63, 48.61);
5. Steven Holcomb, James Reed, Carlo Valdes and Sam McGuffie (USA) 3:14.44 (48.49, 48.51, 48.66, 48.78);
11. Justin Olsen, Evan Weinstock, Austin Landis and Sam Michener (USA) 3:15.30 (48.72, 48.61, 49.01, 48.96);
17. Nick Cunningham, Frank Del Duca, Adrian Adams and Christopher Kinney (USA) 3:15.73 (48.82, 48.81, 49.08, 49.02);
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