KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- Russian-1 pilot Alexander Zubkov wants a piece of Olympic bobsled history.
But he is not alone, and for Zubkov to deliver a gold for on the final day of the Sochi Olympics Sunday in four-man bobsled, he needs to hold off fast-charging Latvia-1 pilot Oskars Melbardis, Germany-1 pilot Maximilian Arndt and USA-1 Steve Holcomb.
Just 17-hundredths of a second separate the No. 1 sled (Zubkov) from the No. 4 sled (Holcomb) with No. 2 sled (Melbardis) and No. 3 sled (Arndt) sandwiched in between.
Zubkov, who answered only a few questions in the interview area because he was unhappy with his second heat, owns a four-hundredth of a second lead over Melbardis with a two-heat time of one minute, 50.19 seconds. He had set a track record of 54.82 in the first heat. Arndt is .16 behind and Holcomb is .17 behind.
"We have a chance to win another medal," Holcomb said. "We're not upset. We're a hundredth out of third place... We're in a good position, and I'm confident we'll come out and do well."
The final two heats are Sunday afternoon at the Sanki Sliding Center.
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Holcomb, racing with an injured left calf sustained in two-man event, was in third place after the first heat, setting a track start-time record in 4.75 seconds. Push athletes Curt Tomasevicz, Steve Langton and Chris Fogt compensated for Holcomb's injury.
"I've got the best push crew in the world," Holcomb said. "These guys are on top of their game… I couldn't have asked for anything more."
Holcomb said his calf feels about 95%, up from 75% on Friday and 60% on Thursday but the calf wasn't a problem on Saturday. USA-1 had a small timing issue in the start of the second heat, but still had a time of 4.79.
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"I made more mistakes driving than I wanted to, but we can fix that for (Sunday)," Holcomb said. "We can go back, watch video and make sure I don't make those mistakes."
The big story is Melbardis who went from fifth place after the first heat to second place after the second, leaping three world-class pilots. Melbardis won the World Cup event here a year ago and won two of the final World Cup events this season. He also has been among the fastest during training this week.
"There are a lot of places where we can find more time, and the second heat was better than the first," Melbardis said. "There are reserves."
Each of the top four pilots are facing pressure, and Holcomb is trying to add even more pressure.
Zubkov is trying to become just the sixth person – and second non-German – to win two-man and four-man gold in the same Olympics.
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Holcomb tried to put the pressure on the 39-year-old Zubkov, Russia's flag-bearer for the opening ceremony, the two-man gold medalist and the man who is trying to give the Russia a 12th gold on the final day of the Sochi Olympics.
And, oh, there's a chance Russian president Vladimir Putin will attend the Sunday's race
"It's taken a lot of pressure off us, and it's adding pressure to him. 'You were so fast in two-man for your home country, flag bearer. You better win,' " said Holcomb, the bronze medalist here in two-man.
- Melbardis is in position to give Latvia its first gold medal in Winter Olympics history.
But Holcomb said, "Melbardis hasn't been putting down consistent runs."
- Germany, a proud bobsled nation, didn't win a medal in two-man and could get shut out of a men's Olympics bobsled medal for the first time since the 1968 Grenoble Games. It will be a sporting crisis – if not national disappointment – if Germany doesn't medal.
"The Germans know how we perform under pressure, and I'm sure they're going to have a hard time sleeping (Saturday night)," Holcomb said.
- There's pressure on Holcomb, too. He is trying to become the first American since Billy Fiske (1928, 1932) to win consecutive four-man Olympic gold medals and just the fourth man person to win four-man golds in consecutive Olympics.
"To really put the hammer down, we need to have two great starts (Sunday)," Holcomb said. "Hopefully, I do what I do best and drive well."
If the third round of a major in golf is moving day, the third of four heats of a bobsled championship is similar, and Zubkov took it one step beyond.
"The race will be decided in the first heat (Sunday)," he said.