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Minus leader, US men have tougher sledding

David Wharton, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Olympics

LOS ANGELES -- The inside of an Olympic bobsled can be a violent place, loud and jostling at 90 mph, subject to oppressive gravitational forces through each banked turn.

But when Steve Langton thinks back on his years of racing with teammate Steven Holcomb, he remembers quieter times.

Their car rides to practice with music playing over the radio. Or the moments before they won a bronze medal in the two-man event at the 2014 Winter Games.

"He and I didn't say one word to each other," Langton recalls. "We both knew what we needed to do."

Eight months have passed since Holcomb died in his sleep at a Lake Placid, N.Y., training site with a fatal combination of alcohol and sleeping pills in his system.

The 37-year-old ranked among the world's top bobsled pilots, winning three Olympic medals and 10 world championships. Although he had made no secret of past battles with depression -- including a suicide attempt -- news of his death rocked the sports world.

Now, in his absence, Langton and the rest of the U.S. bobsled team must find a way to regroup as they head to the 2018 Winter Games without the man who always led them to victory.

"I mean, it's going to be tough," Langton says. "Steve had such quiet confidence."

In the months leading up to the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, team members have met regularly with Alex Cohen, a U.S. Olympic Committee psychologist.

"The one thing that's important for athletes and coaches to know is that (mourning) is a completely natural emotion," Cohen says. "You don't need to rush through it."

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