Holky: The Steven Holcomb Story

Team USA celebrate Gold during the medal ceremony for the Men's Four-Man Bobsled on day 16 of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics at Whistler Medals Plaza on February 27, 2010 in Whistler, Canada. Courtesy of Peter Brown, LLC.

Holky: The Steven Holcomb Story is a new documentary short that profiles the late Olympic medalist, bobsledder Steven Holcomb.

If you know me, you know I have a love of bobsledding going back to the classic Disney film, Cool Runnings. Prior to the start of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, I made my way over to the Utah Olympic Park in Park City to check out the museum and take a tour. For me, one of the highlights came with seeing the track built for the 2002 bobsled event during the tour. The other was being able to sit inside an actual bobsled. When I found out about this documentary yesterday, I immediately said yes to the pitch because bobsledding is my favorite winter sport. But enough about me…

Steven Holcomb was the most decorated American bobsledder in the world before his tragic death in 2017. This is what the legacy he left behind: One Olympic gold medal, two Olympic silver medals, ten World Championship medals, and 60 World Cup medals. Watching this documentary nearly 5 years after his passing is sad because of how talented he was. The last interview he conducted before his death was with The Weight of Gold filmmaker Brett Rapkin. This documentary doesn’t happen without that interview. Amber Theoharis was an executive producer on The Weight of Gold and is a producer for the Los Angeles crew in this one.

Here is how bad his vision was: he memorized the eye chart even though he couldn’t see the giant E. If he so much as failed the physical, he could kiss any Olympic dream goodbye. It’s amazing to think that his career was taking off right as his eyesight was getting worse. That he was hiding it from everyone is just unbelievable. At what point do the lies start to impact one’s life? It almost certainly had an impact on his depression with how he closed himself off to family and friends. All the while, he feels the “entire weight of the program” on his shoulder.

His teammates and coaches knew he wore classes and contacts. They had no idea just how big of an issue that Steven’s vision problems were. However, it was Brian Shimer who introduced Holcomb to an eye surgeon in Beverly Hills, Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler. The film discusses the “Holcomb C3-R” procedure for the Keratoconus. At first Holcomb didn’t feel much better. It wasn’t until the corrective lenses were inserted that he had 20/20 vision.

Holcomb piloted USA-1 with teammates Steve Mesler, Justin Olsen and Curt Tomasevicz to Olympic gold during the 2010 games in Vancouver. Going into this point, USA had been ranked #1 in the world. However, the Germans had won the last five gold medals. After one day of competition, USA was in the lead. USA-1 was the last sled and he did not want to be the driver that blew a half-second lead. All he could do was just live in the moment. He wasn’t sure how they did because you couldn’t see the scoreboard on the track until after finishing the race. It’s one of those moments where, over a decade later, you can’t help but feel the emotions. This was the first American gold medal since 1948!

The pandemic led to a discussion about athletes and mental health. It’s unfortunate that the conversation didn’t start sooner because Steven Holcomb would have contributed a lot. Perhaps opening up earlier might have even saved his life. Holky contributes to the ongoing discussion about athletes and mental health while celebrating the life of the greatest American bobsledder ever, Steven Holcomb.

DIRECTOR: Anna Auster
FEATURING: Steven Holcomb, Justin Olsen, Brian Shimer, Brian Boxer Wachler, John Napier

IndieFlix launched Holky: The Steven Holcomb Story on January 24, 2022.

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.