U.S. bobsleigh star Steven Holcomb may have died from pulmonary congestion
3-time Olympic medallist found was dead in Lake Placid, N.Y. on Saturday
Olympic bobsleigh champion Steven Holcomb may have died from pulmonary congestion, USA Bobsled & Skeleton has announced.
The result is mentioned in a preliminary report prepared by the Adirondack Medical Center, according to USA Today. The report was negative for drugs and there is no suspicion of foul play, but a toxicology report from an independent laboratory is pending.
Holcomb, who drove to three Olympic medals after beating a disease that nearly robbed him of his eyesight, was found dead in Lake Placid, New York, on Saturday at the age of 37.
The native of Park City, Utah, was a three-time Olympian, and his signature moment came at the 2010 Vancouver Games when he piloted his four-man sled to a win that snapped a 62-year gold-medal drought for the U.S. in bobsled's signature race.
"It would be easy to focus on the loss in terms of his Olympic medals and enormous athletic contributions to the organization, but USA Bobsled and Skeleton is a family and right now we are trying to come to grips with the loss of our teammate, our brother and our friend," said Darrin Steele, the federation's CEO who had known Holcomb for two decades.
Sight on Pyeongchang
Holcomb also drove to bronze medals in both two- and four-man events at the Sochi Games in 2014, and was expected to be part of the 2018 U.S. Olympic team headed to the Winter Games in Pyeongchang.
He also was a former world champion in both two-man and four-man competition.
"The entire Olympic family is shocked and saddened by the incredibly tragic loss today of Steven Holcomb," U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun said. "Steve was a tremendous athlete and even better person, and his perseverance and achievements were an inspiration to us all. Our thoughts and prayers are with Steve's family and the entire bobsledding community."
Holcomb was still one of the world's elite drivers, finishing second on the World Cup circuit in two-man points and third in four-man points this past season. His final victory came in Lake Placid last December, when he drove to a two-man win.
CBC Sports caught up with Holcomb last month at a U.S. Olympic summit in Los Angeles, where the American star didn't rule out competing beyond the 2018 Olympics.
"The sport itself is very hard on your body, and just physically, emotionally and mentally. But, then, off-season training is hard. You're training full-time, year-round, basically, and it just wears on you," he said. "Being 37 years old, it's harder for me to maintain that level throughout the entire summer, but you think, 'Well, don't do the whole summer,' well I have to train the whole summer but by the end of the summer I'm just worn out.
"But I can't shorten the summer, because then I'm not going to be in shape enough to do well, so it's a fine balance. We'll see how it goes. The world championships in 2019 are in Whistler, again. I tend to have a pretty fast hand there, so we may stick around for one more year, at least, to see how that goes off. I wouldn't mind a couple more world championship medals, if possible. But we'll take it one day at a time right now, and see how things go."
Holcomb was also looking forward to adding more Olympic medals to his collection.
"This is a little bit like the icing on the cake. A fourth Olympics is cool, but at the same time I think we can go and win more medals. The way things are coming together, the push crews are coming together, we've got a couple of athletes coming out of retirement, the sleds are starting to come together, I'm a better driver than I was four years ago... So I think it's coming together to be successful."
Holcomb won 60 World Cup medals, plus 10 more at the world championships and three in the Olympics, making him one of the most decorated pilots in the world. And when he teamed with Steven Langton to win Olympic bronze in two-man at Sochi in 2014, he snapped another 62-year U.S. drought in that event — just as he had four years earlier in the four-man Olympic race.
"If anyone else has a 62-year medal drought you need to break, let me know, I'll help you," Holcomb said at the time.
His winter-sports career started as a skier when he was six, and he started as a push athlete in bobsled in 1998. He was an alternate on the 2002 Olympic team, and has been the driver of USA-1 — the honor bestowed to America's best pilot — for more than a decade.
With files from The Associated Press and Andrea Lee-Greenberg