By David Ljunggren
WHISTLER (Reuters) - U.S. bobsleigh pilot Steven Holcomb had been driving his four-man sled virtually blind for a couple of years when he decided to have his eyes treated. The results were not what he expected.
Although the procedure was a great success, Holcomb found the restored eyesight interfered with his instinctive driving style. So he went back to racing half blind, deliberately obscuring his vision when hurtling down the track.
The approach clearly worked, given that Holcomb piloted his four-man bob to an Olympic gold medal on Saturday -- the first time the United States had won the event since 1948.
"I think I do still drive a lot by feel ... a lot of issues came back when I had my eye surgery," he said.
Holcomb, who had been suffering from a disease that causes the cornea to bulge out, was not ready for the consequences of being able to see so clearly after treatment in 2008.
"You see too much information. Before, my vision was 25/100 so I couldn't see anything and then all of a sudden I could see things and I was driving by seeing, by vision, and not by the feel of the sled," he told reporters.
"My visor is dirty and scratched and I try to keep it from too much visual information," he said.
Holcomb said part of his success was also due to the eight years he spent as an Alpine skier before switching to the bob.
"You inspect the course and have the ideal line going down the hill but it's very rare you are on that line. So I think I developed the skill of being able to anticipate and correct before the problem started," he said.
The burly ex-soldier, who also won last year's four-man event at the world championships, admitted to being hugely relieved the pressure was over.
He also seemed a little lost.
"It'll take a little while to sink in. You work so hard to get somewhere, you finally get there, and you're kind of like 'Now what?' I don't know what to do," he admitted to reporters a few minutes after his final run.
(Editing by Jon Bramley)