PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — It was a tough Olympics for the United States bobsled team, but Codie Bascue of Whitehall was one of the bright spots.
Bascue was the driver of the American team’s top sled in the four-man bobsled, finishing ninth with Evan Weinstock, Samuel Mc Guffie and Steven Langton. Germany won the gold medal.
Bascue was essentially racing on one leg after enduring a bad calf strain during the two-man competition and having that seriously affect his ability to start.
Langton, who pushed with late pilot Steven Holcomb and won two medals in Sochi four years ago, came away raving about his 23-year-old pilot.
“Truth be told, he had two really good trips today,” Langton said after Saturday’s first two runs. “I think our training trips were even better. When Codie’s on, he’s on.”
Otherwise, the U.S. bobsled team has had nothing but problems. Coach Brian Shimer was bedridden by illness, Bascue was injured, Justin Olsen needed emergency surgery to remove his appendix and Nick Cunningham saw whatever medal hopes he had in the two-man race end about five seconds from the starting line.
That’s not even a complete list of the problems.
“The bobsled Gods are upset at us for something,” Cunningham said.
The U.S. men went home without an Olympic bobsled medal for the first time in 12 years.
The Olympic year started with the death of Holcomb, followed by Shimer’s home in southwest Florida getting clobbered by a massive hurricane, followed by the doping suspension of Olympic-hopeful Ryan Bailey over something team officials believe was inadvertent, followed by sleds getting lost in a shipping debacle on their way to Germany before a World Cup race, followed by no World Cup medals on foreign soil ... well, you get the idea.
A rough 2017-18 campaign is coming to a merciful end. And all three pilots are dealing with something; Bascue limped to the finish after getting hurt in the two-man race, Olsen wass still sore from his surgery earlier this month and Cunningham was trying hard to not let frustrations overpower his Olympic experience.
“We’re all still pretty positive,” Olympic rookie push athlete Sam Michener said. “We executed well as a team. A lot of it, chalk it up to bobsled. It’s a crazy sport. Sometimes you’re fast, sometimes you’re not.”
Not having Holcomb has clearly been an enormous problem for the U.S. all season. He was the best driver on the team and probably the best driver on the planet, but he was also the glue of the organization. Holcomb always made sure other U.S. sleds had everything in line. He was a mentor to the younger drivers, plus an unofficial assistant coach.
Without him, there was no way the U.S. was going to be at its best in Pyeongchang. But the Americans — even with a young team, with the majority of the men’s bobsledders in Pyeongchang being Olympic rookies — expected more than this.
“We just couldn’t put it together,” Cunningham said.