Top U.S. bobsledder is a gold medal nerd

In an interview with CNET, world champion sled pilot and medal contender Steven Holcomb talks about how he got addicted to tech.

Ina Fried Former Staff writer, CNET News
During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley.
Ina Fried
3 min read

WHISTLER, British Columbia--Team USA is pinning its bobsled hopes on a geek.

Luckily, Steven Holcomb is a reigning world champion in the four-man bobsled, in addition to being a big computer nerd.


"I'm working on my computer science degree," Holcomb said in an interview with CNET. "I'm a huge gamer. I'm A+ certified and a Microsoft Certified Professional."

Computers have taken a back seat in recent years, though, as Holcomb has been driving bobsleds full time on the World Cup and international circuit.

Still, though, Holcomb is never too far from technology. He administers his own Web site, is a big time poster on Twitter, and carries a variety of gadgets from his BlackBerry to a Creative Zen music player. Holcomb said he initially got some teasing from his teammates over his technological leanings.

"They did at first, he said, but then they realized that I'm the only one that can fix their computers," he said.

When he and his team are in Europe, Holcomb said it feels like he spends half his free time fixing other people's computers.

While Holcomb is definitely a PC guy, his teammate and bobsled pusher Steve Mesler is a big Mac fan, something that often makes for interesting conversation. (I'll have more on that in a follow-up post from my interview with Mesler.)

Holcomb is also a big video gamer.

"It's just kind of something I grew up with," he said, pointing to his early days playing Atari and Nintendo. "It blew my mind and I've been kind of addicted to technology--computers and video games--ever since."

These days, he's found a practical use for that longtime hobby, using video games as part of his training.

"The whole hand-eye coordination thing is a big factor but a lot it too is spatial awareness," he said. First person shooters, he said, help one quickly become aware of their surroundings and process a lot of information quickly.

"When you are playing Halo for the first time you are miserable because you can't do anything, there is so much going on. Everybody is killing you from all over the place," he said. "After three four days of playing, things start to slow down, you start to process the information faster. It really helps develop that sense of being able to process information faster."

And of course, as a bobsled driver, he also likes driving games like Need for Speed. "It's good practice--plus it's a good excuse to play video games."

Sometimes, though, sledding does cut into his playing time. Holcomb said he's only had about six hours to play Modern Warfare 2. "I'm looking forward for the season to be over so I an play that."

As for whether he plans a career in computing, that depends on how things go on the sledding track. "My plan is to do bobsledding as long as I can."

He hopes to compete not only this year, but also at the next Winter Games, which take place in Sochi, Russia, in 2014.

Holcomb's first chance at the Vancouver Games will come as training begins on Wednesday. The two-man sledding competition is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, with the four-man scheduled for February 26-27.

For more of Holcomb's take on the upcoming bobsled competition, the super-fast track at Whistler and other sports topics, check out a companion post that is part of my Vancouver Olympics blog on CBSSports.com. You can also follow Holcomb on Twitter.

I'll also be following the techie and the rest of his "Night Train" sled team as they take to the track in the coming days.