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Kragthorpe: Memories of Steve Holcomb, from Skyline to Sochi

Published May 12, 2017 10:54 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Tryouts are a staple of sportswriting. The effort of covering a casting call for any sport always is rewarded, often because of the delusional, if admirable, athletes who think they have a chance to make it.

That's why I visited the Skyline High School track on a 100-degree day in July 1998, and sure enough, there they were: the gray-haired marathon runner in long, black socks and the overweight guy who ran 100 meters in about 20 seconds. And that's also where I discovered Steve Holcomb. More accurately, U.S. Bobsled & Skeleton Federation officials found the frustrated, 18-year-old ski racer from Park City who was looking for another Olympic avenue.

He impressed them enough to earn free housing in a bobsled camp later that summer in Lake Placid, N.Y. And that's where he died, not quite 20 years later, after becoming the first Utah native to win three Winter Olympic gold medals.



Holcomb's life was celebrated in a memorial service Thursday at Lake Placid. I thought about how I was around Holcomb for three checkpoints in his career, and only those moments: the tryout at Skyline, the gold medal performance in Vancouver in 2010 and his two bronze medals in Sochi in 2014, when he fought through a calf injury.

His life story would develop many layers in his 37 years, but I always went back to how he was a running back for Park City High School (while attending The Winter Sports School) and an elite-level ski racer, who decided to try one more sport. And he became a star bobsled driver, winning the USA's first Olympic gold medal in 62 years in the four-man sled then the country's first medal of any kind in 62 years in the two-man sled.

To my eternal thankfulness, Holcomb always was a great interview. When he earned that two-man bronze medal in 2014, he showed more emotion than he did even after winning the gold in 2010. And he framed the connection nicely: "If anybody else has a 62-year drought they need to break, let me know."

So I wrote then that when I turned 62 in 2022, I surely would have some unfinished business and he could help me. I won't have that opportunity now. But I'll always remember Steve Holcomb, and how his bobsled career started.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribkurt

 

 

 

 

 

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