WHISTLER, British Columbia (AP) — He’s potbellied, barrel-chested, somehow able to squeeze 240 pounds into a racing suit that is stretched to the limit.

He thought he was going blind a couple years ago. He carries a cell phone even when heading down an icy chute. He looks more like a couch potato than a champion pilot.

He’s Steven Holcomb — America’s best bobsledder.

Holcomb is a world champion already. Now he’s intent on delivering the first four-man bobsledding gold medal for the United States in 62 years. His chance starts Friday, when the final sliding competition of the Vancouver Games begins.

“I have a job to do,” Holcomb told The Associated Press. “There’s no doubt I want to do the job. A lot of the pressure people feel at the Olympics, they’ve created it by themselves. There is a lot of pressure. A lot of people put a lot of money and a lot of time into what we’ve done, and they’re hoping and looking at me, saying, ‘Hey, don’t mess this up.'”

Is he nervous? Absolutely.

Is he showing it? Not a chance.

Holcomb and teammates Justin Olsen, Steve Mesler and Curt Tomasevicz — pushers of the “Night Train,” the matte-black sled that won the world title last year and consistently was among the best on the World Cup circuit this season — act like a bunch of guys simply happy to be at the Olympics.

Some teams never seem to have any fun. Then there’s these guys. They videotaped a moustache-growing contest last year. They’ve been known to push an overstuffed bear down the stairs at the start house of the track in Lake Placid, N.Y. They growl at unsuspecting visitors, scaring them half to death.

“We’ve tried to keep it light, knowing that this moment was coming and it was going to be serious,” Mesler said. “We knew if we could keep it light the whole way through we could carry it into this and it would kind of lessen the gravity of it.”

That doesn’t mean they haven’t had serious issues along the way — Holcomb’s vision, most important.

He has keratoconus, which causes the cornea to bulge outward, causing blurred vision. His vision was too far gone for glasses or contacts, and laser surgery didn’t offer much help. Holcomb thought he was going blind. A $15,000 procedure, in which a contact lens was embedded behind his iris, was deemed the only answer.

Worked perfectly. Soon, he was the world champion, seeing things he’d never seen before.

Next stop, Olympic gold, which would be America’s first in four-man since 1948.

“I don’t think there’s any question,” USA-2 pilot John Napier said. “He’s the best in the world right now.”

Germany might have a different opinion.

Holcomb’s top challenger for the four-man gold figures to be Germany-1, piloted by Andre Lange. Holcomb’s beaten him before, many times. But no one has ever beaten Lange in the Olympics — four races so far, four gold medals, unheard of by any bobsledder.

“I know he wants go out with a bang,” Holcomb said. “And we want to stop that.”

The sheer physics of all things Holcomb are mindboggling.

At 5-foot-10, he’s a half foot shorter than many bobsledders of the same weight. Many are ripped, chiseled, looking like they just walked off the football field — which, in the case of Canadian pusher and former CFL player Jesse Lumsden, they just did.

Holcomb looks like, well, not them.

“Someone asked me one time, ‘How does Holcomb fit through the cowling into that sled? And another unnamed person explained, it’s like Santa Claus going through a chimney. Magic!'” said U.S. women’s bobsled driver Bree Schaaf. “It’s pretty amazing.”

But he’s as athletic as anyone on the circuit.

Holcomb bursts off the starting line, grabs the push bar near the front of his sled, sprinting as hard as he can on the ice, then balances himself and jumps into his seat — something that’s tough for anyone to do on dry land. His workouts leave plenty of people baffled. He’s strong as anyone on the team, maybe just about anyone in bobsledding.

“He’s incredibly athletic,” Schaaf said. “And his size, he’s pretty solid. Not that I’ve touched his butt cheeks, but he has rock-hard butt cheeks. He’s a solid dude. Holcomb is strong. When you’re that strong, it doesn’t matter what you look like — and he can push the hell out of the sled.”

Holcomb was a star high school athlete, and came to bobsledding as a 185-pound pushman.

That was a long, long time ago, U.S. coach Brian Shimer points out.

“You say Holcy doesn’t look like a bobsledder, but he’s actually a throwback from how bobsledders really looked not long ago,” Shimer said. “In terms of body, shape, he’s kind of a roly-poly kind of guy. But in that small package, Holcomb’s carrying 240 pounds and he’s one of the strongest guys on the team.”

Now, his appetite is for Olympic gold.

Holcomb drew some attention last year after winning the world title. But bobsledding has the world’s attention once every four years — and the sliders know it. Olympic gold would probably elevate Holcomb and the Night Train to a level that no U.S. bobsled has reached, not even when Jill Bakken and Vonetta Flowers won the women’s gold in 2002.

A 62-year curse rests on his broad shoulders. Well, he says, no better time than now.

And maybe he’ll do what’s known as the “Holcy Dance” — his little shuffle-and-step move that has gone viral and even has its own professionally done sound mix now — on Saturday night with a gold medal swaying from his neck.

“We’ve been waiting for our turn,” Holcomb said.

Here it comes.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.