A three-time Olympic medalist in the U.S. women’s eight boat, Mary Whipple knows a thing or two about the dedication that a team must have. Even if that team consists of two Olympic figure skaters instead of a boat filled with Olympic rowers.
The beauty of the gold medal won by ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White last month in Sochi hit home with Whipple.
“They allowed each other to be far greater together to reach a higher goal than what they could do alone. That is the pure essence of a team,” said Whipple, who won Olympic gold medals in 2008 and 2012. “Coming from a team sport, I know it’s the best feeling in the world to depend on a teammate while being dependable to win the gold.”
Davis and White, who have been skating together for 17 years, were the first Americans to win Olympic gold in ice dancing. And they helped the United States win a bronze medal in the inaugural team competition at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
“One of my favorite moments of Sochi was watching Meryl and Charlie win the gold medal,” said gymnast Nastia Liukin, a five-time Olympic medalist and all-around gold medalist at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. “Watching them on the ice, they seemed in a league of their own. They are two of the nicest Olympians I know, so to see their 17-year dream come true is incredible.”
Davis and White are one of three finalists in the Best Olympic Team category in the inaugural Best of U.S. awards program being presented by the United States Olympic Committee.
The other finalists are Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams, who won the silver medal in women’s bobsled; and the men’s USA-1 bobsled team, which Steven Holcomb piloted to bronze medals in both two- and four-man with Steve Langton, Curt Tomasevicz and Chris Fogt.
Fans can vote for their favorites through March 21 on the U.S. Olympic Team Facebook page in four categories: Male, Female, Team and Moment of the Olympic Games. In addition, categories for Male, Female, Team and Moment of the Paralympic Games will open after that competition wraps up on March 16. A Team Behind the Team Award and Fan of the Games Award are also up for grabs.
All three team finalists made American history in Sochi. In men’s two-man bobsled, Holcomb and Langton snapped a 62-year medal drought by the United States. Six days later, Holcomb, Tomasevicz, Langton and Fogt slid to another bronze medal in the four-man. The last time Team USA medaled in both two- and four-man bobsled at the same Winter Games was also 62 years ago.
“Something has to be said for ending medal droughts,” said Mariel Zagunis, who become the first American to win a gold medal in fencing in 100 years when she won her first of two titles in 2004. “Athletes have enough on their minds already, but to know that the hope for your country in a sport is riding on your shoulders creates extra pressure. This team rose to the challenge in great form and it was wonderful to see them win a medal.”
Meyers is the only American to win a bobsled medal as a pilot and a brakeman, having pushed for pilot Erin Pac in a bronze-medal performance in 2010. Williams, a four-time Olympian who won a gold medal in the women’s 4x100-meter at the London 2012 Olympic Games, became just the second American to win a medal at the winter and summer Games.
“I follow Elana on Twitter and she does an amazing job allowing everyone into her life,” said Brenda Villa, a four-time Olympic medalist and the most decorated athlete in international women’s water polo. “I cheered and followed her and Lauryn in Sochi. They were amazing. They are so powerful. I’m impressed with both of their stories.”
Williams made her way from the Olympic track in London to the Olympic bobsled track in Sochi in less than a year.
“I was on the edge of my seat for all of these performances, but I have to go with Lauryn Williams and Elana Meyers,” said Abby Johnston, a silver medalist in women’s 3-meter synchronized diving at the London Games. “Lauryn’s feat of becoming a winter and summer Olympic medalist is truly incredible. I know how much time and dedication it took to be a top competitor in one sport and cannot fathom how she was able to reach the pinnacle of two sports.”
Fellow 2012 Olympic diver Brittany Viola echoed Johnston’s pick.
“Lauryn is a friend from the University of Miami,” Viola said. “Watching her make the transition to a new sport in less than a year and then to come away with a silver medal, just missing out on a gold, was amazing to see. To have medals in both the summer and winter Olympics is pretty special. I’m so used to seeing her on the track and it was such a cool moment to see what she was capable of doing on the ice.”
Paul D. Bowker has been writing about Olympic sports since 1990 and was Olympic assistant bureau chief for Morris Communications at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games. He also writes about Olympic sports for the Springfield (Mass.) Republican. Bowker has written for TeamUSA.org since 2010 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.