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Bronze In Bobsled For A Team Of Steves


At the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Team USA has been struggling to win gold. There were some hope today. Two pairs of American athletes went into their events as the best in the world. And we're going to hear now how they did, starting with two-men bobsled. America driver Steve Holcomb and his brakeman Steve Langton sounded like this on the bobsled course.


CORNISH: The Steves were going 82.7 miles per hour. The Russian sled, piloted by Alexander Zubkov, sounded like this...


CORNISH: All right. Perhaps you couldn't tell, but the Russian sled was faster and grabbed the gold. The Americans were left with the bronze medal. And NPR's Robert Smith is outside the track. And, Robert, it's been 62 years since the U.S. has won a medal in two-men bobsled. I know this is an achievement. But Holcomb was the tough racer in the world this year. How's he taking it?

ROBERT SMITH, BYLINE: He is one cool customer. As I guess you can imagine, he races bobsleds for a living. So he came off the track, you know, really cool with the reporters. And he said, yeah, we wanted gold. We thought we can win gold. But, you know, walking away with an Olympic medal is pretty good. You know, he was joking around because back in the Vancouver Olympics, he broke a 62-year-old drought of gold in the four-men bobsled. And now, he's broken this drought for the two-men bobsled. And he said, if anyone out there has a 62-year drought they need me to work on, I'm available.

CORNISH: And the Russian, Alexander Zubkov, won every single heat by, like, a fraction of a second. I mean, how did he do it?

SMITH: He owns this track. He - this is his home track. He knows it better than anyone in the world. Steve Holcomb told me that, in practice, the U.S. team had made maybe 40 runs on this track. Zubkov has done 300, 400 runs. He knows it in every condition, every weather. He has it nailed. And so when the pressure was on, he did it every time.

CORNISH: And before I let you go, Robert Smith, I got to ask about the Jamaican bobsled team. Everybody is talking about them, but how they do?

SMITH: They got 29th out of 29 racers who finished. They finished a couple of seconds behind the leader in every heat, which is pretty terrible in bobsled. But I got to say, like, those guys were happy. The crowd love them. They accomplished what they needed to accomplish.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Robert Smith in Sochi. Robert, thank you.

SMITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Robert Smith is a host for NPR's Planet Money where he tells stories about how the global economy is affecting our lives.