For four years, bobsled driver Elana Meyers trained and competed in relative obscurity, working toward the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
But after winning a silver medal with brakewoman Lauryn Williams and being featured on primetime NBC coverage of the Winter Games, Meyers has morphed from under-the-radar athlete to instant celebrity, especially around her hometown of Douglasville, Ga., just west of Atlanta.
|Lauryn Williams and Elana Meyers pose with their silver medals
at USA House on Feb. 20, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.
“It’s crazy,” Meyers said. “It’s awesome at the same time. But it’s weird for me as a bobsledder because it’s not a highlight sport, not one of those major sports like football, baseball, basketball, soccer. So to go everywhere across Atlanta and be recognized, or to go to Douglasville and be recognized, it’s a pretty cool feeling.
“You know, people come up to me and ask if they can take a photograph, and they’re shy and stuff and stand in front of me, and ‘Yeah, of course I’ll take a photograph with you!’” she adds, laughing. “It’s pretty cool. You’re asking for my photograph.”
It’s been that way for Meyers, 29, almost from the moment she flew back to Atlanta from Sochi, where she added a silver medal to the bronze she won in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2010 as a brakewoman with driver Erin Pac. In Sochi, Meyers became the first U.S. bobsledder of either gender to earn an Olympic medal as both a driver and a brakeman.
When she arrived in Atlanta, there were fans gathered to welcome her home — even though a missed connection pushed her arrival back from 6 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Then, on Feb. 25, Douglas County and the city of Douglasville hosted a public welcome-home ceremony for her at the Arbor Place Mall that drew thousands. She did several media interviews beforehand, got a key to the city during the ceremony — which included several presentations, including the county proclaiming it “Elana Meyers Day” — and then signed autographs. The line for autographs wrapped around the mall, and she says she signed more than 1,000 for about two hours.
“It was pretty overwhelming to see all those people come and support me and to have my back and to be cheering and rooting me on and get to know me,” she said.
|Meyers meets with Governor Nathan Deal.|
The next day it was off to the state capital in Atlanta where she received resolutions from both the state senate and house, and met Gov. Nathan Deal.
She also spent time at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, where she talked to young patients about the Olympic Games and showed them her silver medal. BMW, which designed the U.S. two-man sleds for Sochi, also presented the kids with mini bobsleds and brought Meyers’ actual bobsled for them to see.
But not everything her first week back involved public appearances. After returning home, she also gave herself permission (and time) to indulge.
After watching her diet and working out constantly for four years, Meyers has taken a break and eaten goodies she ordinarily would avoid. She drove an hour to get her hands on a Chipotle burrito and has posted photos on Twitter of the food she’s eaten and made, such as chicken and biscuits and chocolate whiskey bacon bark.
“I have eaten so much junk food it’s ridiculous,” she said. “More in the past week than in the previous four years. I’m just taking it every day as it comes and trying to have as much fun as I can. Because it was an incredibly intense Olympics, it was incredibly intense past four years, so now’s the time to celebrate and enjoy each day.”
|Meyers and fiancé Nic Taylor attend an Anaheim Ducks game.
After about a week in Georgia, Meyers flew out to San Diego to spend time at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., where her fiancé, Nic Taylor (also a bobsledder) is interning as a strength and conditioning coach. While in California, she took in an Anaheim Ducks NHL game, where she was honored along with several other Sochi Olympians.
When she returns to Georgia, Meyers has some more public appearances scheduled, plus a lot more on her plate.
She’s due to complete her MBA this year from the Keller Graduate School of Management of DeVry University, and she needs to wrap up preparations for her wedding to Taylor in Douglasville on April 24.
In fact, she needs to be part of her sister’s wedding plans, too. They’ll be married within two days of one another in April.
Then in May, Meyers — long a fan of the TV show Say Yes to the Dress — will get the chance to see a show she taped in December, long before she left for Sochi. She says the show approached her, after hearing of her engagement, and she loved being a part of it.
“I didn’t know they would be interested in my story, so it was pretty cool when they reached out to me and said, ‘Hey, want to come out here and try on a dress?’ I said ‘Of course.’”
One of the guests at her wedding will be Kaillie Humphries, the Canadian who drove her bobsled to gold medals in both Vancouver and Sochi. Humphries has told Meyers she’ll be there.
“I know it’s kind of weird to have your biggest competitor to be one of your good friends, but we lived together this past summer and it’s a really, good, healthy, competitive relationship that drives both of us to be better,” Meyers said.
Once the wedding and celebrating is over, then it will be goodbye to fast food and taking it easy. Meyers already has made up her mind to work another four years to add a gold to her collection of silver and bronze medals.
“When you come a tenth of a second from winning a gold medal, I don’t think you can help but want to keep going,” she said. “You know, I didn’t drive perfectly and I love driving my bobslsed. As long as I’m having fun, I can’t imagine giving it up.”
Doug Williams covered three Olympic Games for two Southern California newspapers and was the Olympic editor for the San Diego Union-Tribune. He has written for TeamUSA.org since 2011 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.