US hoping 7 sliding medals brings more momentum

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 24, 2014 at 4:33 am •  Published: February 24, 2014
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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — An hour after his last race at the Sochi Olympics, U.S. bobsled driver Steven Holcomb stood near the finish line of the sliding track and started to take a look over the snow-capped mountains.

In short, he's eager to see what's next for American sliding.

After the show the U.S. bobsled, skeleton and luge teams put on at the Sanki Sliding Center — taking home seven medals, the most of any nation — he's hardly the only one with that sense of anticipation. And since the U.S. Olympic Committee takes world-championship and Olympic performance into significant account when doling out budget cash, chances seem high that the Americans might turn Sochi success into a springboard for the Pyeongchang Games in 2018.

"We can train as much as we want, but without the equipment to get into, we can't be competitive," Holcomb said. "It shows a lot and I think it's going to build a lot of motivation and momentum going into the next four years. It's huge."

For as long as anyone can remember, American success, or lack thereof, in sliding was always pinned on how the U.S. couldn't keep up with the rest of the world when it came to sliding innovation. Over nine straight Winter Olympics starting in 1960, the Americans never won a single sliding medal. They won two in doubles luge in 1998, and then came what was perceived to be a breakthrough — eight, on home ice, at the Salt Lake City Games in 2002.

In 2006 and 2010, combined, only three medals followed.

But with a commitment to technology — continued strides by the Bo-Dyn group that makes four-man bobsleds, much more specific design work on skeleton sleds, a big investment from BMW into building what they call "ultimate sliding machines" for the two-man and women's bobsled teams, and a major revamping in luge equipment led by Dow Chemical — the Americans medaled in every discipline at Sochi.

"The thing is, we still don't even know how fast these BMW sleds can be yet," U.S. bobsled coach Brian Shimer said.

Assuming the financing is there, the American teams could just keep getting faster for Korea — where the home team likely won't be a huge medal favorite like the Russians were in Sochi.

And for the most part, the U.S. stars of these games might just be hitting their peaks.

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