Steve Holcomb barely missed sweeping the bobsled World Cup races in Igls, Austria, taking second Sunday after winning the two-man the previous day.

But it was Monterey's Nick Cunningham who highlighted the competition for the Americans finishing fourth to all but seal a berth at the Sochi Games.

Cunningham's crew had two great starts that propelled the struggling driver to his best World Cup finish this season in the four-man sled a week after he crashed when in medal contention. He missed a medal Sunday by .07 of a second. The 2010 Olympian's previous best was 12th on Jan. 4.

Nick Cunningham, front, of the United States leads his team during the start of the four-men Bob World Cup race in Innsbruck , Austria, Sunday, Jan. 19.
Nick Cunningham, front, of the United States leads his team during the start of the four-men Bob World Cup race in Innsbruck , Austria, Sunday, Jan. 19. 2014. (AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson) ( Kerstin Joensson )

"My guys put me in contention for a medal last week and I let them down," Cunningham told USA Boblsed. "They came back this week with that same drive, and it's just unreal. They've elevated the U.S. program. These guys get their job done at the start, and it motivates me even more to do better and get my job done."

The crew posted powerful push times of 5.00 seconds in both heats.

"We changed our mentality after last week," Cunningham said. "We were trying to beat specific teams and realized we were just beating ourselves. We hold our own destiny. We came up with the term 'P' to 'P,' which means prepare to podium. Week in and week out we need to come out and do the best we can, and the rest will take care of itself. I think it worked today."


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Before the event Cunningham was ranked 17th -- third among U.S. pilots. He had been frustrated in the four-man competition, feeling his crew was good enough for top six finishes.

He did it in the final race before team selection to the 2014 Olympics with crew Justin Olsen, Johnny Quinn and Dallas Robinson.

But the United States appeared to lose a chance to qualify a third sled in Sochi when Russia's Nikita Zakharov finished .04 of a second in front of Cory Butner in 17th and 18th places, respectively.

"It's good to see we have depth," Holcomb told USA Bobsled. "Those guys in Nick's and Cory's sleds pushed their hearts out today and it's really impressive. This is one of the best teams we've had, and it's going to be really heartbreaking in about five hours when not everyone gets an Olympic ticket."

Second-ranked Jamie Gruebel and Lauryn Williams -- a three-time Olympic sprinter -- won a World Cup boblsed race in Igls, beating third-ranked teammates Elana Mayer and Aja Evans by .13 of a second. Jazmine Fenlator and Lolo Jones were seventh.

"I had no idea what was in store for me this season," Williams told USA Bobsled. "I just wanted to come in with positive energy and help out. This is the first time I've been a part of a true team sport, and there's someone else counting on you. You can't let that person down, and that's what drives me."

Erin Hamlin, Chris Mazdzer and doubles team Matt Mortensen and Preston Griffall finished sixth in humid conditions in Altenberg, Germany, in the team relay that makes its Olympic debut in Sochi next month.

"I don't know how I could have gone faster unless I had some magic wax or something on my steels," Hamlin said of the conditions. "The humidity was so high and the track frosted up super fast."

Bode Miller took 26th in the Wengen, Switzerland, slalom for his first World Cup points in the discipline since 2011.

Race officials canceled the women's downhill in Cortina, Italy. The alpine event is scheduled for Thursday and Friday. The U.S. ski team will be nominated next Sunday.

Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865 and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.