KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- The first thing Steven Holcomb noticed when he crossed the finish line Monday night was that the Russian fans were wildly cheering.
Not a good sign, the USA-1 pilot figured.
The next second felt like forever. Had he medaled? Had he blown it? He had no idea. But as his sled slowed to a stop, friendly, joyous faces -- people clad in red, white and blue -- came into view.
"I saw the flood of Americans coming up and over the wall," Holcomb said, "and that's when I knew."
Victory was not his. But he'd ended another 62-year drought for U.S. bobsledding, and that was more than enough. Holcomb and Steve Langton won the bronze medal in two-man bobsledding at the Sochi Games, the first Olympic medal by an American sled in the event since 1952.
By now, 62 must be Holcomb's favorite number. His four-man gold medal at the Vancouver Games also snapped a 62-year U.S. drought in that race.
"If there's anybody who needs a 62-year drought broken, give me a call and I'll try to help you out," Holcomb said.
Russia's Alexander Zubkov and Alexey Voevoda won the gold in a dominant home-ice show, beating the Swiss team of Beat Hefti and Alex Baumann by 0.66 seconds. Holcomb, of Park City, Utah, and Langton, of Melrose, Mass., were another 0.22 seconds back, finishing just 0.03 seconds ahead of another Russian sled in the race for bronze.
"Man, thank God," said Holcomb, who raced through a strained left calf that required treatment Sunday and Monday. "There was a lot of pressure on me there."
Holcomb needed 45 minutes of treatment after racing Sunday night before he could emerge for interviews, and it was clear the team was worried about his leg. Langton said he and Holcomb didn't even discuss the injury on Monday. Langton just knew Holcomb was going to show up and do his job, one way or another.
"Best driver in the world," Langton said, pointing across a room toward Holcomb. "The best. That guy."
Zubkov had the home-ice edge. Hefti has long been one of the best two-man drivers. And for quite some time, Holcomb has been fighting to dispel the notion that he's only truly elite when racing on the North American tracks he knows best.