Thursday 14 December 2017

Top US bobsledder Steven Holcomb found dead at Olympic training centre

Steven Holcomb pictured after the US four-man bobsled victory at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics (AP)
Steven Holcomb pictured after the US four-man bobsled victory at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics (AP)

America's sporting world has expressed shock after Steven Holcomb, who drove to three Olympic bobsledding medals after beating a disease that nearly robbed him of his eyesight, was found dead.

The US Olympic Committee and the USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation announced the death of the 37-year-old 2010 gold medallist, who was found dead in his room at the Olympic Training Centre in Lake Placid, New York, on Saturday.

The federation said it was believed Holcomb died in his sleep.

Officials said there were no indications of foul play after a preliminary investigation and a post-mortem examination is expected to take place on Sunday.

Holcomb, America's best bobsled pilot and a self-described computer geek who would rub shoulders with Hollywood stars, was a three-time Olympian and five-time world champion.

His signature moment came at the 2010 Vancouver Games when he piloted his four-man sled to a win that ended a 62-year gold-medal drought for the US in bobsled's signature race.

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 US Olympic team at the Pyeongchang Games.

"The only reason why the USA is in any conversation in the sport of bobsled is because of Steve Holcomb," said US bobsled pilot Nick Cunningham, who had a room next to Holcomb in Lake Placid.

"He was the face of our team. He was the face of our sport. We all emulated him.

"Every driver in the world watched him, because he was that good at what he did.

"It's a huge loss, huge loss, not just for our team but for the entire bobsled community."

USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation chief executive Darrin Steele said: "USA Bobsled and Skeleton is a family and right now we are trying to come to grips with the loss of our team-mate, our brother and our friend."

US Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun said: "The entire Olympic family is shocked and saddened by the incredibly tragic loss of Steven Holcomb.

"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."

"Incredibly sad to hear about the passing of @StevenHolcomb," US women's soccer star Carli Lloyd tweeted.

"Deepest sympathies go out to his loved ones."

Holcomb, a native of Park City, Utah, was almost always happy in public, with a sense of humour well-known throughout the close-knit bobsled world.

Team-mates 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 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 realised what my purpose was," he said in 2014.

The depression, he believed, largely stemmed from his fight with the disease, keratoconus.

Holcomb's vision degenerated to the point where he was convinced that his bobsled career was ending and his mood quickly darkened as well.

His eyesight was saved in an operation that turned his 20-500 vision into something close to perfect and his bobsled career took off from there.

In the bobsled world, he was larger than life.

"Dreadful, dreadful news," bobsledding broadcaster Martin Haven said on Twitter.

"Holcy was one of the friendliest, most open guys you could hope to meet ... I'm heartbroken."


Press Association

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