Skip to main content
  1. Life
  2. Society & Culture
  3. Social Issues

Olympic bobsledder overcomes sight-stealing disease, takes bronze in Sochi

See also

A bobsledder steered his two-man team to a bronze medal Monday at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Quite an amazing feat in its own right, but it's even more amazing because just a few short years ago, this bobsledder had a severe visual impairment.

In 2000, Steven Holcomb was diagnosed with keratoconus, which is a vision disorder that causes the cornea to weaken and bulge outward, thus making it difficult to focus without the aid of glasses or contact lenses.Holcomb, a 33-year-old native of Park City, Utah, saw his vision deteriorate rapidly in just seven years, according to an interview he did with CBS News.

"It took about seven years until I went from 20/20 to 20/1000," said Holcomb.

Holcomb managed to adapt his bobsledding technique as his vision deteriorated, learning to "drive by feel." He also wore contacts that corrected his vision up to 20/60. But in 2007 his vision had deteriorated so much that contacts weren't enough.

A dozen specialists told Holcomb that he needed a cornea transplant. The transplant would have taken Holcomb out of bobsledding for at least two years, and his corneas would have been so fragile that bobsledding after the transplant could be dangerous.

Holcomb thought his bobsledding days were over. "I'm gonna have to retire from the sport," said Holcomb.

Holcomb went through this challenging time in his life alone. He hadn't told anyone about his deteriorating vision. He withdrew from friends and family, fell into a deep depression, and attempted suicide.

After his failed suicide attempt, Holcomb gained support from his friends and family. One day his coach came to him and told him of a specialist that he thought could repair his corneas without a cornea transplant. Despite his reservations, Holcomb visited the specialist, Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler. Thanks to the procedure, Holcomb's vision was then able to be corrected to 20/20 with contacts, and the deterioration was halted.

Since Holcomb had adapted to having low vision, adjusting to having vision again proved difficult.

"I went from being out of the sport because I couldn't see, to being back in the sport, but I can't do it because I CAN see," said Holcomb.

After a year of adjusting, Holcomb won the first world championship in 50 years for the U.S. in four-man bobsled, and won an Olympic gold medal in Vancouver two years after that.

Holcomb and his teammate, Steven Langton, gave the U.S. its first two-man bobsled medal in 62 years.

"Like" the NE FL Low Vision Connection Facebook page to stay up-to-date regarding all the upcoming local events for the Jacksonville low vision community and to get the latest low vision news.

Subscribe to the Jacksonville Blind Community Examiner to receive notifications when new articles are published.



  • Dead babies found
    Seven dead babies were found in Utah resident Megan Huntsman's old home
    Shocking Discovery
  • Kendall Jenner
    Get the Coachella looks: Kendall Jenner’s nose ring, green hair and edgy nails
    Coachella Look
  • Dog's Easter basket
    How to fill your dog’s Easter basket with the perfect toys
    Easter Basket
  • Rabbit owners
    Bringing home the bunny: Important information for rabbit owners
    7 Photos
  • Haunted island
    The world’s most haunted island may soon be the most haunted luxury resort
    Haunted Resort
  • Sunken ferry
    Search continues for missing passengers after a ferry sinks off the South Korean coast
    Sunken Ferry

User login

Log in
Sign in with your email and password. Or reset your password.
Write for us
Interested in becoming an Examiner and sharing your experience and passion? We're always looking for quality writers. Find out more about and apply today!