Four years ago, Curt Tomasevicz's bobsled team became the first American squad since 1948 to win gold in the Winter Olympics.
When Tomasevicz and his USA-1 teammates step on the track Saturday in Sochi, they won't be burdened with history. But their task may be even tougher than in Vancouver.
To go back-to-back, the Americans must upset the Russians on their home track.
Earlier this week, Alexander Zubkov piloted Russia to gold in the two-man event, winning by an impressive 0.66 seconds — wider than the gap between second place and sixth.
Entering the more prestigious four-man event, Tomasevicz and his teammates are suddenly underdogs.
“It's kind of taken a lot of the pressure off us,” said American pilot Steven Holcomb, who won bronze in the two-man event with Steve Langton. “It's adding pressure to (Zubkov) because people are like, 'You were so fast in two-man in front of your home country, you better win.' ”
The four-man event consists of two runs Saturday and two more Sunday.
After Friday's two practice runs, Holcomb, bothered by an aching calf, said he hopes he's 100 percent by the time he, Tomasevicz, Langton and Chris Fogt jump in USA-1 and try to win it all again.
“We've been there, we've done that,” said Holcomb, from Park City, Utah. “I think that's the hardest part. I didn't win a medal my first four years driving. But once you win that first race, you understand how to win, and it's like, 'Oh, OK, that's how you win a race,' and it just kind of comes naturally.
“We know how to do it. We know what it takes, and as long as we all execute we'll be on track.”
Zubkov, though, has home-ice advantage, and that meant everything in two-man. Where others failed to find speed, Zubkov picked up velocity. He knows where there are hidden time treasures under the ice.
“There's certain lines through the corners that a lot of the teams won't be able to do that we can do,” said Pierre Lueders, a two-time Olympic medalist from Canada, hired by Russia as a coach. “There's some very specific turning points that are key to making speed.”
Holcomb and the other teams have spent the past few days studying video of Zubkov's run, looking for any detail that might help them catch him.
Germany's team may have found some answers. After finishing eighth, 11th and 15th in two-man — their poorest showing since 1956 — the Germans had the three fastest sleds during the fifth training run.
Lueders, however, knows there's one driver capable of making the Russian sweat: Holcomb.
He may not have the physique of an Olympian, but Holcomb's driving skills, along with the team behind him, make the Americans the biggest threat to the Russians' plans for a party.
“When a guy's won two medals at the Olympics, you don't count him out,” Lueders said. “We actually mentioned his name specifically yesterday that just because someone's not pushing or they're slow in training means absolutely nothing.”
Tomasevicz's job as a push athlete will be to get Holcomb into driving position as fast as possible. He's spent four years preparing for this weekend, hoping he can make his friends back in Shelby, Neb., celebrate the way they did in 2010. So even though the race is in Zubkov's backyard, even though Vladimir Putin may be in attendance, Tomasevicz doesn't lack confidence.
“Experience,” said the Nebraskan, “makes us aware of what we're going to walk into.”
This story includes information from the Associated Press.