By Jean DePlacido
---- — Steve Langton got a taste of what it means to be a United States Olympian four years ago.
This time around, the former St. John’s Prep track star is a member of the No. 1 US four-man bobsled team that is one of the favorites to medal in Sochi, Russia.
The Winter Olympics begin this Friday and Langton will take part in both two-man bobsled Feb. 16-17 (a four-heat format) and the four-man bobsled (Feb. 22-23).
“I feel honored and blessed to have been named to my second Team. I will make my country proud,” Steve Langton tweeted.
In the final event of the regular season two weekends ago in Koenigssee, Germany, Langton and his three teammates (piloted by Steve Holcomb and including Curt Tomasevicz and Chris Fogt) team won gold. Holcomb’s team started the World Cup season on a winning note and wrapped it up in the final race with another gold (there were other top finishes in between).
Holcomb won the two-man title and finished second in the overall four-man competition with 1,514 points behind Germany. The team might have claimed the top spot if not for a bad crash at Winterberg. Holcomb is also the combined two and four man leader this season with 3,159 points.
“A victory in Konigssee and an overall World Cup title,” Langton tweeted. “We ended the season the way we started it and are poised and ready (for Sochi).”
A Melrose native, Langton had an outstanding track career at St. John’s Prep and Northeastern University. After graduating he started bobsled training at age 23.
He will most likely also push for Holcomb in the two-man event. Four years ago Napier and Langton finished 10th in the two-man. Langton was named Rookie of the Year in 2008 and won his first US national push title the following year.
In 2010, Holcomb won gold at Vancouver. He followed that up with both four-man and two-man World Championships in 2012, with Steve Langton pushing him to victory. After Napier retired, Langton joined Holcomb on USA 1.
If he can win the two-man event at Sochi, Holcomb will be the first American to take gold since 1936. America is sending six pilots (drivers) and nine push athletes on the men’s and women’s teams.
“This is the deepest field of push athletes we’ve ever had,” said US Bobsled and Skeleton Federation CEO Darrin Steele said when announcing the team. “We knew heading into the season that the Olympic selection was going to be extremely difficult. It’s a good problem to have, but it meant that some outstanding athletes would not make the Olympic Team.”
Younger brother also going
Langton’s younger brother Chris, also a former St. John’s Prep athlete, ran track and captained the lacrosse team for the Eagles before going on to play lacrosse at Cornell. He was named as one of two alternates for the men’s team. The alternates will travel and train with the team, subbing for athletes during training runs and are eligible to step in if illness or injury occurs.
It is quite an honor for the push athlete, who was named to the national team for the 2012-13 season shortly after taking up the sport. He caught the bug while still in college after watching his brother compete’ he and pilot Cory Butner placed fourth, just .01 seconds from getting a medal. (Pilots are the bobsled drivers).
“Chris gave me the pushes we needed. I am so proud of him,” said Butner at a press conference after the event.
“Chris got into (bobsled) because of Steve,” said Anne Langton, their mother. “When we went to the Olympics in Vancouver (in 2010), Chris was at Cornell watching the Games on television with friends. He knew what that whole experience meant to Steven. Between junior and senior year he did an internship with a lawyer from Lake Placid and trained with his brother. After graduating in 2012, Chris moved into the training center and made the team in his first year, which is very unusual.”
Being a push athlete in bobsledding requires tremendous strength and stamina as well as a lot of speed to push a heavy sled down an icy track at speeds of more than 75 MPH.
Getting their start in track certainly paid off for the brothers. Steve is a four-time national push champion and also winner of the first world push competition. He is a two-time world champ in the two and four-man.
With a little luck Chris would have also been a member of the team. His pilot, Butner, suffered a concussion and couldn’t drive one weekend, so the team didn’t get any points.
“The US qualified to send two four-man teams,” said Sean Langton, Chris and Steve’s brother. “It’s determined by points, and if the third team made it Chris would be on the team. He was unanimously named first alternate by the athletes on the team and the Olympic committee. It’s nice that Steve will have him there.
“Steve is very confident going in. With the right equipment and Holcomb on point, things look good. USA has had a long drought in the two-man event, but Holcomb was in first place overall in the two-man and second in four-man, so the expectations are very high.”