A Lesson in Perseverance: Q & A with U.S. Olympic Bobsledder Steven Holcomb
Tough times never last; tough people do. Growing up just steps away from the slopes in Park City, Utah, Steven Holcomb faced adversity but his Olympic dreams began when he was young. Today, the 32-year-old pilots the four-man bobsled crew nicknamed the “Night Train” and is considered one of the most successful bobsled drivers in U.S. history.
Holcomb hopes to defend the gold medal he earned at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver this February. As he and his team prepare for the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Holcomb took a moment to reflect on his career and future aspirations.
Was there a certain point in time when you realized you had the potential to become an Olympian?
Holcomb: I wanted to be an Olympian for as long as I can remember. I was an avid alpine skier for 12 years, but I didn’t feel that I had the potential to be the best in the sport. In 1998, after I graduated from high school, I decided to try out for the U.S. bobsled team. I made the team and within a year competed in my first World Cup event. There was no turning back - I was hooked.
You’ve come a long way including overcoming a degenerative eye disease. What inspired you to share your story in your autobiography?
Holcomb: I was diagnosed with keratoconus, a degenerative eye disease, in 2002. It’s a progressive disease leaving one-in-four totally blind. At first, I thought this was the end of my competitive road and I considered retiring. When I finally told my coaches, I was lucky enough to be introduced to a revolutionary treatment which restored my vision. With newfound determination, I went on to lead the U.S. bobsled team to the World Championship title and we took home the gold medal at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. We were the first U.S. bobsled team to win a gold medal since 1948.
The treatment was later named the Holcomb C3-R, which is a great honor. This series of events helped me realize anything is possible and my second chance was too powerful not to share.
What do you love about bobsledding?
Holcomb: Bobsledding is a lot of work but a lot of fun, too. The pressure, high speed, and difficult tracks are exhilarating. The only thing people see is the sled in the track, but there is so much more that goes into preparing. It’s all worth it and so rewarding.
Off the track, you’ve earned multiple IT certifications from both Microsoft and CompTIA and you’re now pursuing a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems from DeVry University. What do you intend to do after the Olympics?
Holcomb: I always have to be prepared for the future and my bigger plan. Right now, that means continuing my education so I can be successful after my bobsled career. The staff at DeVry University has been immensely accommodating in helping me manage my student life in the midst of my athletic career. I have worked as a computer technician for the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) in the past, so I’d like to continue down that career path one day.
What advice do you have for young athletes who strive to compete in future Olympic Games?
Holcomb: After 16 years of competing, all I can say is you must have perseverance. Today’s young athletes need to fight for what they want and work hard to get a spot on the team and ultimately, a medal. Every great athlete has a story that precedes them and hard work is without a doubt at the core of the story. Your determination and perseverance are central themes. As the saying goes, “tough times never last, but tough people do.”