SOCHI, Russia -- Alexander Zubkov of Russia continued to exploit home ice advantage here, as the veteran bobsled pilot put down two strong runs in the four-man event Saturday and will take a slim lead into Sunday's finals.
The Latvian team stunned many by finishing second , just .04 seconds off Zubkov's time after the first day of competition. Latvian driver Oskars Melbardis -- who finished 9th at the world championships last year -- finished fifth in the two-man competition earlier this week.
The German crew is in third, with a .01-second lead over the American sled.
U.S. pilot Steven Holcomb, who won gold in Vancouver four years ago, expressed confidence in his crew's ability to make the medal stand after the final two runs Sunday. Acknowledging he made a mistake on the track's fifth curve, Holcomb said he planned to review video Saturday night and make the necessary corrections. He also planned to watch video of the Latvian crew's blistering second run.
"We're not upset," Holcomb said. "We're a hundredth (of a second) out of third place. The Germans know how we perform under pressure and I'm sure they're going to have a hard time sleeping tonight. Melbardis hasn't been putting down consistent runs, so we're in a good position and I'm confident we'll come out tomorrow and do well."
Holcomb is still struggling with a calf strain he suffered during the two-man event Sunday. Despite the injury, he and his crew of Steve Langton, Curt Tomasevicz and Chris Fogt broke the track's start record on their first run.
"It's not painful, but it's still not firing as well as I like," Holcomb said. "It's unfortunate that four years of training comes down to 'I sprained my calf.'"
Zubkov became the medal favorite in this event after winning gold in the two-man event earlier in the week. While other drivers are still trying to figure out the Sanki Sliding Center track, his familiarity with the course has helped him dominate these Games.
His competitors estimate Zubkov has taken 300 training runs on the track, which has 17 curves and three rare uphill sections. The other drivers -- who have had about 40 runs here over the past two years -- have taken to studying his efforts in order to determine how to best handle the course.
"A huge amount of work has been done. Our rivals are very serious and tomorrow will be a very difficult race," Zubkov said. "We will fight until the very end. It is a serious competition and a serious race."
With only .17 seconds separating the Russians and fourth-place U.S. sled, German pilot Maximilian Arndt suggested Zubkov could be caught Sunday.
"We will see if we can still tease him," Arndt said.
The USA2 sled, piloted by Nick Cunningham, is in 11th place after a steering part broke on the team's first run.
The race was temporarily halted after a Canadian sled crashed on its second run. The crew walked away from the wreckage without any visible injuries.
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