Olympics / Sports

USA-3 driver Nick Cunningham, left, congratulates USA-1's Steven Langton after their Heat 4 run of the Two-man Bobsled at the Sliding Center Sanki for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia on Monday, Feb. 17, 2014. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group/MCT)

Americans don't strike gold but go home with 7 medals in luge, skeleton and bobsled

SOCHI, Russia -- The United States didn't strike gold at the Sanki Sliding Center, but it made a lot of history nevertheless.

From Erin Hamlin's first-ever American medal in singles luge to Steven Holcomb's drought-ending bobsled runs, the sliding sports accounted for some of Team USA's most memorable moments in the Caucasus Mountains.

"Dreams are a scary thing, because there is always a chance you won't accomplish them," said Steve Langton, who won bronze in two-man and four-man bobsled. "Then there are days like these that make it all worth it."

In addition to Hamlin's medal in luge, the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation captured six medals at these Games, more than any American team besides the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, which won 17 medals but had more than six times the number of events.

With Langton as his brakeman, Holcomb ended two 62-year droughts. He became the first American to win a two-man medal since 1952 and the first U.S. pilot to medal in both the two-man and four-man events since those Helsinki Games. In addition to Langton, Holcomb's four-man crew included Chris Vogt and Curt Tomasevicz.

Four years ago in Vancouver, Holcomb became the first U.S. driver to win gold in the four-man event in 62 years.

"It's a strange coincidence," Holcomb said. "Maybe I'll go to Vegas after this and bet everything on 62."

Holcomb, 33, indicated he might compete in the 2018 Olympics.

"I love what I do and I don't want to get a real job, so I may stick around a couple more years," he said.

The U.S. women's bobsledders also etched their place in history as Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams won silver while teammates Jamie Greubel and Aja Evans took bronze. Their results marked the first time the U.S. women had won multiple bobsled medals.

In taking silver, Williams also became the third woman to medal in both the Winter and Summer Games. A former sprint star who only joined the sport seven months ago, Williams won gold as part of the 400-meter relay in London in 2012 and won silver in the 100 meters in Athens in 2004.

"I didn't come here to make history," Williams said. "I came to help Team USA, and I happened to make history in the process."

Williams also joined track star-turned-bobsledder Lolo Jones in becoming the ninth and 10th Americans to compete in both the Summer and Winter Games. Jones, who finished 11th, said Williams' performance would be her greatest memory of these Olympics.

"I feel like I am in the presence of Jesse Owens when I look at Lauryn Williams," Jones said. "I hope she's a household name when we get home, because it's just the most brilliant thing I've ever watched."

Jones and Williams would not commit to returning to bobsled next season. Evans said she planned to take a break from the sport to train as a heptathlete.

The U.S. also won two skeleton medals thanks to silver medalist Noelle Pikus-Pace and bronze medalist Matt Antoine. Antoine's medal made the U.S. the only country to complete the medal set in men's skeleton, having now won gold, silver and bronze in the event.

Pikus-Pace announced her retirement after the race, while Antoine said he had not decided whether to compete in 2018.

"I can't answer this question now, but I'm not walking away," he said. "I love the sport, and I don't see a reason to leave."

On the luge track, Hamlin slid into the history books as the first American to medal in a singles event. Hamlin said she hoped her medal would raise the profile of the U.S. luge program, which long has been considered behind the European dynasties.

"Luge isn't the biggest sport at home," Hamlin said. "Hopefully this gives it a boost. I'm happy to pave the way to the future."

(c)2014 Chicago Tribune

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Distributed by MCT Information Services




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