Steve Langton sits in the Marino Center. Not too long ago he could be seen there as a Northeastern student. Now, he is back to his old stomping ground for the first time in years. He returns, not as the Northeastern track star he once was, but as a United States Olympian.
Steve Langton was a member of both the 2-man and 4-man bobsled teams in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
Looking at Steve he seems to be nothing more than a regular guy. Fidgeting in his chair, he is wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Oh yeah, and his official Team USA Olympic winter jacket.
The Melrose, Mass. native said the jacket is the only thing he still wears of his Olympic clothes. He only wore it because it was the most appropriate jacket he had for the weather, which was a downpour. He even said he tries to turn the front so no one can see the Olympic logo on the front, shying away from unwanted attention.
Steve ran track and field through his high school career and continued it when studying at Northeastern University, before graduating in 2005. He admits it is his first visit to campus in years, as he has been staying in Lake Placid to train for the last three years.
The first stop in his return to Northeastern was to the Marino Center. Sitting in the center at the high-traffic time of lunch, not a single person seemed to recognize him. There were no stares his way in relation to his bright red Olympic jacket, which would be sure to catch someone’s eye.
Following his college graduation Steve took on working for his father’s land-development company, but he was not satisfied with that. “I had been an athlete my whole life, and I guess that’s how I identified myself. I was out of competitive sports for about a year and I was doing great. But for myself it was really tough to walk away from athletics like that.” Steve described that he was not at the proper caliber to continue his track and field career.
“So I sought out another sport. Bobsled in the Olympics is something I’ve watched since I was a little boy. Bobsled just really appealed to me. The size of the athletes, and speed, and similar background that they had compared to myself and I thought I would give it a shot to see how I compared.”
“He’s one of our most dedicated athletes,” said John Napier, who was pilot on Steve’s team, “He’s 100 percent into his physical abilities.”
Steve explained that most bobsledders come from a track or football background. “I think the discipline from track carried over… just the awareness of my body.”
“I contacted Steve Holcomb, who is now the Olympic Champion about my interest. He then sent my numbers and statistics to the head coach, Brian Shimer. The head coach then called and invited me to a National Team Camp at the end of the summer.” Explained Langton, “I attended and tested better than any current National Team member in sprinting, jumping and lifting events. I next attended the National Push Championships in Calgary, Alberta. I did well enough at the Push Championships and was asked to push for Mike Kohn’s sled, whom at the time was USA II.”
The next stop was on to Northeastern’s Cabot Center. Steve spent much of his time at Northeastern here and said he was pretty sure they did renovations since he had left. He walked out on the track noticing right away all the differences. He began to point out what had changed. We hit a few dead ends while walking through Cabot, as Steve led the way through a building he once knew very well.
Steve has spent the better part of the last three years interacting with primarily Olympic athletes. “It really took me coming back to Massachusetts to realize that Olympic athletes really aren’t all that common. Where as before those were the only people that I spent my day-to-day with but now I realize that it’s a really special thing,” said Steve through his stutters. Continuing to fidget with a chair next to him, while we sat at a table to talk more.
Steve said that only when he’s in his hometown he will be recognized as the Olympian he is. He likes it better than being the household name athlete. ”I’m a pretty reserved person and I like to keep my business to myself.” Steve continued, “I mean, I’ve never been there but if I was a high profile athlete I think I would look back on times like now where I’m a little less recognized.”
Napier suggested referring to Steve as “humble,” as opposed to “shy,” though clearly he is both. “He’s a great guy. We both play golf in the summer and go out on my boat. He’s laid back and relaxed.”
While walking through Cabot we came across a trophy case lined with pictures. After looking through the track part we saw he was not included in it. However, he pointed out people who had been on his team in the past. Steve competed in the long jump as well as sprints while at Northeastern. He graduated with a degree in Business Management and Entrepreneurship.
Chris Fogt, a teammate of Steve’s said, “He is very shy, for how big and strong he is, you would think he would be cocky and arrogant. But he is very soft spoken for the freak athlete that he is.”
Steve said he was a reserved person, but he was not the least bit shy in taking my phone while we were sitting at the table to map out the way his teammates would be surrounding the bobsled. He pointed to the table around the phone, showing me how there are three push athletes, one on the left, one on the right, and one in the back. He explained that in practice the goal is to learn how things work with his teammates. He said the technique is all in loading into the bobsled and making sure each teammate gets in the sled the proper way.
Steve, 27, stands at 6’2” and 227 pounds. He has dark hair that would be curly if he grew it out longer and striking blue eyes. John Napier noted, “I think it’s funny Ralph Lauren sponsored the USA team this year because he looks like he could have walked right out of the catalog as a model.” Napier was not exaggerating in his comment.
Steve only started bobsledding about two and a half years before the Olympics came around. “It’s really on individual basis, how much time you put in to it and what athletic talents you bring to the table. Pushing isn’t exactly running and it’s not weight lifting either. There’s definitely an X-factor to be good at this sport.”
Fogt has participated in college sports and also has some military background. “I’ve been around a lot of athletic people and I would say he is the most disciplined person I’ve ever met. He’s very regimented. I don’t care if something fun comes up, he will do what he has to do to train first, which drives me nuts sometimes.”
“Since I’ve lived with him, we’ve gone out to bars twice. Neither time were we out past midnight, that’s how crazy he is, he cracks me up,” said Fogt.
Steve was in a bobsled that crashed in the Olympics and has crashed six times before that as well. “It’s bumpy, loud, and uncomfortable.” Watching a bobsled crash is probably one of the scariest things, bobsledders flying down the track upside down. “If I had the option to not be upside down on my head I would definitely choose that.”
Steve said that even when a sled is going it’s proper course, and sitting it’s correct way; it is still a violent and bumpy ride. “There’s no padding of any type… uncomfortable is the best way to describe it.”
Steve competes in both the 2-man and 4-man races. He said for him, being a pusher, it does not make too much of a difference. The pilot is the person who has to make more adjustments in the different races. He smirked and said, “The 2-man is like the sports car, the Ferrari, of bobsled. Where as the 4-man more like a greyhound bus.”
Fogt commented, “He is hilarious, he cracks jokes, he’s pretty sarcastic, but most people don’t see that side because they see the more stoic side that you probably saw.”
While walking around Cabot we ran into Mike Windsor, Mark Harris, and Chris Marshall who are the head of operational services, assistant director of development, and the assistant director of external affairs respectively for Northeastern athletics. Harris recognized Steve right away.
They all began to praise him and talk about his Olympic run. Steve kept up the conversation with them, although he was clearly fidgety the whole time, like he had been in the interview. Steve had planned to stop in the Track Offices, however nobody was there. It almost seemed right that the doors to the office were locked, as Steve is no longer a Northeastern Student Athlete, he is now an Olympic Bobsledder.