By Gary SheftickFebruary 21, 2014
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (Army News Service, Feb. 21, 2014) -- USA's bronze-medal performance by Steven Holcomb and Steve Langton, Feb. 17, in two-man bobsled has motivated others on the team to ramp up their game for this weekend's four-man bobsled competition.
"It elevates everybody -- it motivates us," said Sgt. Nick Cunningham about the bronze medal. Cunningham, a member of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, will drive the USA-2 sled Saturday and Sunday.
"Any time (the team) wins a medal, it's a help to the program," Cunningham said. "Who better to win a medal than Holcomb -- a guy that has elevated the entire program, from Vancouver over the past four years ... a guy that's been a mentor to me; a guy that's always been there."
After his 13th-place finish in the two-man bobsled competition, Feb. 17, Cunningham said he was going to regroup and make some adjustments.
Mechanics were adjusting the USA-2 sled Feb. 21 before the team's last practice run and Cunningham compared it to what goes on in the garage before a NASCAR race.
"We're doing race setup," he said, explaining that the team tries to analyze "what works, what doesn't. Every run has a different set of runners -- a different setup; stiffer or a little softer."
Cunningham said the team's approach to the bobsled competition depends also on the weather and condition of the ice. "It's just as much mental out here as physical."
Even though they've trained extensively for the Olympics, USA Bobsled Coach Brian Shimer said there's always a new angle to competition the athletes must be prepared to adapt to. One of those new angles includes the nuances of a new track.
"We're still learning every day here," said Shimer, of the track Sanki. "It's very technical. It's not fast speeds; they got the uphill sections that really keep you slowed down. It's not like the 'fly by the seat of your pants and hang on' kind of stuff and that's kind of what North American pilots thrive on."
Shimer said tracks like the ones at Lake Placid, N.Y., and Whistler in Vancouver are faster than at this year's Winter Games.
Here at Sanki, "you've got to be really on your mark," he said.
The good thing is when we do well in two-man, we typically do pretty well in four-man," said Holcomb, who drove USA-1 to the bronze earlier this week and will drive the USA-1 four-man sled in this weekend's competition.
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