Team USA welcomes Prep grad for a third time at this month’s 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games in South Korea
Steve Langton ’01 was a powerful and explosive track athlete in high school and he’s parlayed that remarkable skill-set, along with an awe-inspiring work ethic, into a third consecutive trip to the Winter Olympic Games. The 6-foot-2, 227-pound Melrose native is one of nine push athletes selected to power three Team USA sleds in the four-man bobsled event. Langton, 34, departed for the Korean Peninsula on Thursday and will ride in third seat of a sled piloted by budding star and 23-year-old driver Codie Bascue.
“I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to represent the United States, and having the honor to do so three times is both rare and special,” says Langton, who, along with ice hockey forward John McCarthy ’04, is one of two St. John’s alumni on this year’s Team USA roster. “I've appreciated the journey. The timing feels right for this to be my last Olympics. I am extremely excited for the next four weeks but equally as excited for what comes next.”
At St. John’s, Langton was notorious for his ferocious weight room workouts, raw athleticism, and spring-loaded leg drive. Nearly two decades after his graduation, he still owns the school record in the 100-meter dash (10.7 seconds) and remains the only Eagles sprinter to win the Division 1 state title in the event. He was a member of an All-State champion 4x400-meter relay quartet that still holds the school record. Indoors, he still shares the Prep’s Long Jump Relay record.
Though Langton retired from sledding for more than two years before launching a comeback last January, his former coach at St. John’s isn’t the least bit surprised the multi-time medalist is back for another taste of Olympic glory.
“I was surprised he retired in the first place, but I’m not surprised he made the team again,” says John Boyle, who has coached cross country and track at St. John’s since 1969. “He was a man among boys in high school in some events. A ferocious competitor, but very humble. He loved exploring every element of training to gain any advantage and he passed those lessons on to the other kids on the team. He was a big, strong kid with movie-star good looks and he was one of the hardest workers I’ve ever coached. ”
Generally obscured beneath a helmet at bobsled events, Langton’s camera-friendly appearance was on display for all the world to see when he appeared on the 2015 season of the CBS reality television show “The Amazing Race.” This year’s 12-member U.S. men’s bobsled team includes an active duty Green Beret, a former NFL running back who once got a celebratory head-butt from New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, and Langton, who owns the most global medals on the squad, having captured bronze in both two- and four-man bobsled at the 2014 Sochi Games, as well as four world championship medals, including two golds in 2012.
“Steve was easily one of the best pure athletes I’ve ever coached,” says John Klein, the Prep’s longtime varsity assistant track coach. “He had great lift and spring and he was real student of the hurdles and high jump, which translates well to bobsled. That’s a sport where every step and every motion is crucial. You’ve got to push that sled straight, get speed fast and drop into that cab seamlessly. I was really hoping he’d come back and was happy to hear he did.”
MOVIN' ON UP
This past November, the International Olympic Committee handed down sanctions against Russian athletes who were doping at the 2014 Sochi Games. The list was topped by bobsledder Aleksandr Zubkov, who was stripped of the gold medals he won in two- and four-man events. The IOC’s sanctions of Russian athletes are under review by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which is expected to announce its decision this week. If the CAS affirms the anti-doping rule violations, the IOC can reallocate the medals. That means Langton’s double-bronze performance in Russia is set to become double-silver.
Be that it may, Langton’s Olympic medal history—whether he adds to it or not in South Korea—will forever be bitter-sweet. He won all five of his major international medals riding with beloved teammate and legendary Team USA driver Steve Holcomb, who died unexpectedly at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid this past May at the age of 37.
“Steve was a great athlete, friend and teammate, and he is dearly missed,” says Langton, a 2005 graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in business management and entrepreneurship. “My teammates and I will continue to do our best to honor him through strong results and represent the USA the best we can in his absence.”
Leading up to what would have been his fourth Olympics, Holcomb had earned three Olympic medals, 10 world championship medals and 60 World Cup medals. He was the anchor of his country’s team. His absence in PyeongChang leaves a gaping hole in a team that is nevertheless one of only three nations to qualify three sleds in this year’s Games for both two-man and four-man.
Does Holcomb’s loss leave Langton feeling any additional pressure to help push his sled to a medal?
“I don't feel that,” he says. “Twelve months ago, I had no intention of returning to sliding, so I'm appreciating this experience for what it is. To be completely honest, I feel less pressure this time around than I’ve ever felt heading into a Games. That being said, we have a talented team, one of the best starts in the world and with a little luck, we could do very well.”
A TOUGH GET
Langton isn’t shy about how difficult it was to return to a highly specialized sport and recapture world-class performance after a 26-month layoff. After all, international bobsled competition involves sprinting to push a 500-pound sled down an icy track in order to reach speeds up to 90 miles-per-hour. Every trip, regardless of how smooth it looks, leaves the sled’s occupants banged up and bruised as their bodies thrash about inside highly engineered, Twinkie-shaped carbon fiber.
“After retiring in the fall of 2014, I had no ambition to return to sliding,” explains Langton, who has won more than a dozen International Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation World Cup medals. “Once I made the decision to come back last January, within three months my strength numbers were back to very close to where they were in Sochi. Considering I had not sprinted a step in three years, my foot speed took a bit longer, but by (this past) July I was in fighting shape.”
Langton joined the U.S. National Bobsled team in 2007, was named USA Bobsled Rookie of the Year for the 2007-2008 season, then won the US National Push Championship title in 2009. He is one of five current or former Olympians to graduate from St. John’s. This elite corps of athletes consists of McCarthy ’04 (ice hockey), Ray Carey IV ’91 (swimming & diving), Robbie Doyle '67 (sailing) and Jimmy Pedro ’88 (judo). William D. Hayes, a track athlete who competed in the 1920 Summer Games in Antwerp, Belgium, attended the Prep for three years, but did not graduate from St. John’s.
To Watch Prep Olympians at the Games
The Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony will begin at 8 a.m. ET on Friday, Feb. 9. The Closing Ceremony takes place at 8 a.m. ET on Sunday, Feb. 25. Team USA men’s ice hockey opens play on February 14 against Slovenia at 7:10 am ET with all U.S. hockey games being live-streamed on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app. Bobsled qualifying heats will take place on February 24 with the medal round scheduled for February 25. This comprehensive schedule for every event at the 2018 Games offers a searchable tool to identify full streaming coverage as well as broadcast television windows.