Steven Holcomb, U.S. bobsledding star & Olympic champ, dead at 37

Three-time U.S. Olympic bobsled champion Steven Holcomb passed away Saturday morning at just 37 years old.

No cause of death was given but, according to the USA Bobsled federation, Holcomb died in his sleep at the Olympic training center in Lake Placid, less than a year before he was slated to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

“It would be easy to focus on the loss in terms of his Olympic medals and enormous athletic contributions to the organization, but USA Bobsled & Skeleton is a family and right now we are trying to come to grips with the loss of our teammate, our brother and our friend,” said USA Bobsled & Skeleton CEO Darrin Steele.

Holcomb piloted the four-man bobsled team in 2010 that won the gold medal, breaking a 62-year Olympic championship drought in that event. He also won a pair of bronze Olympic medals and five world championships titles.

Amazingly, Holcomb’s accomplishments occurred after he was declared legally blind with 20/500 eyesight — a product of a degenerative eye disease — and learned to drive a bobsled through feel. Still, he was nearly forced to retire as his eyesight deteriorated, and was very open about his battle with depression and a suicide attempt in 2007 when he swallowed 73 sleeping pills with whiskey.

Steven Holcomb

Steven Holcomb

(Jin-man Lee/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

“I had wrapped my entire existence up in the quest to be an Olympic champion, and now, with that opportunity right in front of me, I realized I couldn’t reach it because of a crippling, damning disease,” he wrote in his autobiography.

Holcomb later underwent surgery on his cornea to restore his vision, setting up his run of bobsled championships.

At 5-10 and 231 pounds, Holcomb was also frequently teased about his weight, which he has said was difficult to maintain while taking antidepressants. Still, Holcomb maintained a good humor about the weight jokes.  When  Jimmy Fallon chose him as “the most likely to be found with a chicken wing in his pocket,” Holcomb responded on Twitter, “I’m a little offended @jimmyfallon. Seriously, how dare you assume I’m a teriyaki wing guy? I only eat Buffalo style.”

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