Vancouver bobsled preview
Despite what you remember from
But there's plenty to love even without the Jamaicans. U.S. bobsled pusher
To add to the speed and violence, the course in Whistler is far and away the fastest one in the world, thanks in part to a steep top section that includes a 20-degree drop at curve two. Curve 13 was dubbed the "50/50 curve" after a day of course testing last year when only half the teams made it through right side up. If you're the type who watches NASCAR secretly anxious to see a crash, this might be the year for you to check out bobsled.
In Lake Placid last March, the top U.S. four-man sled won the World Championships for the first time in 50 years. The sled was piloted by
"The Night Train" bested the German sled piloted by
On the women's side, 32-year-old
Holcomb and the Night Train have a legitimate shot to end America's 62-year gold-medal drought in the four-man, and Holcomb could contend for gold with Tomasevicz in the two-man as well. Driver
Rohbock, with pusher
The U.S. Night Train team is friendly with Lange off the course, but considering the U.S. beat him by nearly a full second over four runs at the '09 Worlds, the German bobsled legend will be out for revenge. As Mesler put it: "Lange's like the
For the women, the U.S. and Canada will be trying to crack the German stranglehold on bobsled glory. They'll have their work cut out for them, as Kiriasis and Martini are first and third in the World Cup standings. The winners of the other two were Rohbuck and
Humphries has no two-woman world championship medals to her credit, but the 24-year-old is currently second in the World Cup, and, like the other Canadians, will have an edge in a sport where experience on the home course is of paramount importance. Some teams complained that Canada was restricting access for foreign teams to the Olympic course and thus un-leveling the playing field, so expect a bit of grudge match between Canada and the world.
Holcomb almost gave up the sport after a degenerative eye condition called Keratoconus -- in which the corneas bulge outward -- nearly left him blind. By '07, Holcomb's eyesight had deteriorated to 20/500, and he had already burned through the strongest contact lenses available. In '08, doctors implanted lenses made of a special polymer behind Holcomb's irises, and now he has the best vision on the team.
As his eyesight was deteriorating, though, Holcomb learned to drive based on the pressure he feels in his legs and hands, and he credits that for some of his success. "If you have to wait for visual cues," Holcomb says, "you're not going to react as fast."
• Napier, like Rohbuck, is a member of the National Guard serving in the Army World Class Athlete Program, which provides support to top athletes. Napier, though, has requested to serve in Afghanistan following the Olympics.
Two-Man: Feb. 21