The Holcy Dance: A Bobsled Sensation

Night Train

The U.S. Night Train crew sits in first place heading into Saturday's final runs in four-man bobsleigh. (Bob Martin/SI)

WHISTLER, British Columbia — America’s elite four-man bobsled team, The Night Train, preceded its track-record Heat 2 run on Friday with a performance of its signature move: The Holcy Dance. Named after its originator, driver Steven Holcomb of Park City, Utah, The Holcy (pronounced HOLE-KEE) is barely even a dance. It’s a few subtle foot-raises and arm motions that look like Holcomb is either running in place, trying to stay warm, or just badly in need of a bathroom break. “Maybe that,” said Holcomb’s father, Steve, “is why he gets down the hill so fast.”

Holcomb’s Night Train is certainly fast — it set track records in each of its first two heats at Whistler Sliding Center, and barring a crash on Saturday, is poised to win the U.S.’ first Olympic gold in bobsled since 1948. If that happens, The Holcy might become a global craze; as of now, the compilation produced by the No. 3 man in the Night Train sled, Steve Mesler, only has 2,700 views on YouTube:

Night Train Button

A Night Train button worn by Steve Mesler's mother, Lois. (Luke Winn/SI)

Mesler, who included clips of The Holcy being performed in six different countries (the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland), is the man behind the dance. He told SI’s David Epstein that, six or seven years ago, “I heard the Humpty Dance on the radio before a race, and I started singing it and turned [the lyrics] into The Holcy Dance — and Holcy started dancing.”

(Epstein, who wrote an excellent feature on the Night Train crew in November, told me that the dance now seems to be Holcomb’s Pavlovian response to hearing Mesler sing that altered version of the Digital Underground hit.)

Holcomb’s mother, Jean Anne Schaefer, hadn’t seen the dance until her son did it on NBC during the Olympics, but approves of its subtlety. “It’s so Steve,” she said. “He doesn’t like flashy. He’s just laid-back and easy.” Amy Tomasevicz, the mother of the team’s brakeman, Curt Tomasevicz, said she’d be willing to give Holcomb some pointers in the offseason. She won a Twist contest in the mid-’90s at the Shelby Hotel in their hometown of Shelby, Neb. (pop: 690). Of The Holcy, she said, “Stylistically, it stinks, but that’s not the point. It’s the inner beat.”

(One additional note on the culture of the Night Train: Not only does it have its own dance, it has its own whistle, too. Holcomb’s father gave Epstein one of the custom train whistles they had made for the Games, and photos of it are below:)

Night Train Whistle

(Luke Winn/SI)

Night Train Whistle

(Luke Winn/SI)

  • Published On Feb. 27, 2010 by lukewinn
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