For a second, Holcomb thought the guy was joking.
“He said, ‘You guys are so slow in training, you got no shot this weekend, you have no chance at a medal,’” Holcomb said, laughing about the awkward exchange. “I mean, this is training, nothing happens here.”
No, the real racing doesn’t begin in four-man bobsled until Saturday, and that’s probably a good thing for Holcomb. He’s nursing a calf strain sustained while winning bronze earlier this week in two-man, quenching a 62-year Olympic medal drought for the Americans in that event.
Holcomb’s focus is now on defending the four-man title he won four years ago in Vancouver, where he tamed Whistler’s wicked track and won the U.S. team’s first gold medal since 1948.
On Thursday, Holcomb managed to run most of the way down the starting ramp before jumping in his sled ahead of teammates Curt Tomasevicz, Steve Langton and Chris Fogt. The powerful U.S. team needed to work on its cadence and timing at the crucial start because it’s been nearly a month since their last World Cup competition.
So getting Holcomb on the move was progress after he sat in the front Wednesday during the first two training heats on the Sanki Sliding Center track.
“I was able to take a few steps and load in right at the crest of the hill,” Holcomb said. “I was not putting a lot of pressure on my leg, just enough. The best thing to do is stay off it and get treatment.”
With Holcomb more of a hindrance than help, the U.S. team’s slow starts contributed to them finishing 17th and 16th in Thursday’s training runs.
No wonder the Russian reporter was aghast.
Holcomb, though, isn’t worried, and joked that his crew’s ready for him to get well.
“They’re kind of mad at me because they’re pushing their guts out,” he cracked. “We have a plan and they understand it. We’re here to win a medal.”
“It’s definitely not optimal,” he said. “If there’s any slack we’ll be there to pick it up. But he’s a gamer, he’ll be the best he can possibly be by race day.”
In the past few days, Holcomb has been getting acupuncture, electrical stimulation and massage therapy on his calf. It’s working as Holcomb said he’s probably “60 percent” healthy, but he’s also been approached with other remedies.