KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- Bobsledder Steven Holcomb tried to hold it in.

He wore a stoic face when it should have been red with pain.

America's best bobsledder was aching after straining his left calf on the second of four heats in the two-man bobsled competition at the Sanki Sliding Center.

It wasn't clear whether Holcomb would make it to the starting line Monday to face his moment of destiny.

"I knew when his name was called, he'd be ready to go," brakeman Steve Langton said.

Holcomb, 33, wasn't about to walk away with a medal on the line.

USA-1 was just fast enough on a technical, curvy chute to become the first American sled to win a medal in the two-man competition in 62 years.

Holcomb hit the milestone four years after ending another 62-year drought by winning the gold medal in the four-man competition at the Vancouver Games.

"If anybody else has a 62-year drought they need to break, just let me know," Holcomb said. "We'll try to help you."

Perhaps the Chicago Cubs should arrange a lunch with the drought buster.

In a dramatic night at the track, Alexander Zubkov of Russia won the gold medal in his final two-man race, and Beat Hefti of Switzerland took the silver.

Holcomb held off fast-charging Russian Alexander Kasjanov by a mere .03 of a second to earn America's first medal in the event since Stan Benham and Pat Martin won a silver medallion at the 1952 Oslo Games.


"A medal is a medal," said Holcomb, who won the two-man World Cup title this season. "I'm going home an Olympic medalist. That's pretty bad ass."

Holcomb's drive only added to his compelling narrative after 16 years in bobsledding.

The Park City, Utah, native, who was a ski racer before switching to sledding, almost had to retire seven years ago because of a degenerative eye disease that causes distorted vision and can lead to blindness.

While unable to compete in 2007, he became so depressed that he attempted suicide by swallowing 73 sleeping pills with whiskey.

A seldom-performed operation led to 20/20 vision, but Holcomb discovered that seeing better hurt his driving.

In a sport where the senses are magnified, Holcomb drives by feel as much as sight, having figured out a track's subtleties to avoid mistakes while barreling along at 85 mph.

"He gets it, he gets the sport," said Monterey's Nick Cunningham, who finished 13th.

USA-2, piloted by Yucaipa's Cory Butner, was 12th.

U.S. coach Brian Shimer, who was part of the American four-man team that ended a 46-year medal drought at the Salt Lake City Games in 2002, didn't think his guys could do it Monday after the injury.

A four-time Olympian, Shimer figured everything would have to go right for a medal at the Sochi Games. When it didn't, "it was pretty dismal wondering if he could go," Shimer said of Holcomb.

Holcomb had other thoughts.

"Four years to get to this point, I'm not going to let a little calf boo-boo stop me," he said.

Team physicians worked deep into the morning hours to keep the muscle from spasming. Holcomb received acupuncture, kinesio tape and muscle stimulation.

The Americans debated through lunch whether to withdraw to save Holcomb for the four-man racing this weekend.

They decided to let Langton do most of the pushing off the start.

"I would have carried the sled down the start ramp if I'd had to," Langton said.

Shimer expects Holcomb to recover in time to defend his four-man gold medal.

But Holcomb wasn't thinking about defending his gold medal Monday night. He also wasn't thinking about the painful calf when starting the third run that kept him in medal contention.

"When you're sitting in third place, you can deal with a lot more pain than you think you can," he said.

An hour after the event, Holcomb had a spring in his gait. He threw a hefty bag full of his racing gear over his back as he departed.

Shouldn't someone have been carrying his equipment considering the tender calf muscle?

Holcomb laughed at the thought of a personal sherpa.

Nothing like an Olympic medal to ease the pain.

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