|Down time from our first four-man run|
Two-time Olympic bobsled medalist Elana Meyers is blogging about her quest to compete in four-man bobsled, as well as her experiences in two-woman bobsled, at TeamUSA.org during the 2014-15 season.
Preparing for the Olympics in 2010 I knew what I had to do: I had one shot to win a medal and everything would come down to less than four minutes. Actually, in women’s bobsled, it all comes down to the first run of the four-heat Olympic race — if you screw up that first heat, it’s a long road back to a medal and one rarely traveled. Standing at the starting line in Whistler, B.C., my heart was beating out of my chest, feeling all the pressure of the past three hard years of triumph and struggle would come down to this moment. I hit the sled and we were off.
A few days after our competition, the weight from the pressure of competing replaced with the weight of a shiny new bronze medal hanging from my neck, I made my way over to the Whistler Sliding Center to watch Steve Holcomb and the Night Train take on the world in the four-man competition. After Holcomb finished sixth in an exciting two-man race, we were all eager to watch Holcomb throw down, knowing that gold was within reach. As I sat at the track watching the sleds pass by as the competition began, I remember thinking — “Man, this is awesome. The sleds are so fast, I wish I could do that — it really looks like fun.” I watched the rest of the race on the edge of my seat, excited but a bit envious as well, wanting an opportunity to hop in a four-man sled. The Night Train won gold and we all celebrated, but I never forgot that little voice inside my head that yearned for even more.
Four years later I find myself at the top of the track with my own crew. It’s hard for me to stop smiling, my heart is once again beating out of my chest, and I can barely control my excitement. I try to play it cool — act like I’ve seen the men act so many times — calm, cool and collected, reminding myself that I’ve got this. But I can’t help but be nervous, I’ve never driven a four-man sled before and now with the sled on the line, I have no choice but to get this sled and my crew down the track. If that wasn’t exciting or pressure enough, my brakeman is my everything — my husband — crash him and there’s a good chance I’ll find myself sleeping on the couch! But we’re here and there’s only one way to go…
Why did I want to race four-man? It’s simple really — I love going fast and I love sliding down a hill. Competing in four-man would give me that opportunity — another chance to test myself as an athlete and another opportunity to go as fast as I can down an icy hill. Not only would it be crazy fun, but the addition of four-man for women would increase our opportunities. It would allow more women to participate in the sport and also give us another shot at a medal in the Olympics, another opportunity to represent Team USA.
So how did we get here? Well, from a big picture standpoint the FIBT passed a rule that allowed women to compete in four-man events. From a small-picture perspective, it started with a phone call. As an athlete on the Board of Directors for the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, I was pushing the board to take action to start women’s four-man. Our board was totally behind it, the question was how to get it started to ensure the sport would survive. We formed a committee devoted to answering that question, and went to work. Before we figured out an exact plan, the FIBT passed their rule. Our CEO, Darrin Steele, called me with the good news, telling me I could now race four-man events with the boys. As excited as I was, so many questions remained. How would I make this happen? What about a four-woman event? Who would I compete against? What sled would I drive?
Thanks to a great, supportive CEO, Board of Directors and coaching staff, I was able to get a sled, runners and, most importantly, ice time. Now all I needed was a crew — and a fast crew as I discovered I would need to race for rank against the men in order to compete for races. I had become quite adept in finding women brakemen, but how was I going to form a team of men? How was I going to convince them to push with me?
|First time driving four-man!|
I headed up to Lake Placid, New York, for push championships and even though I wouldn’t be competing, I was more nervous than ever knowing that I would need to figure out a way to form a four-man crew. Twenty-one men competed in push championships, exactly enough push athletes for the seven four-man crews that would be competing in U.S. team trials. Prior to the competition, I had already started feeling out the guys to see what my chances were of getting them to slide with me, and it wasn’t looking good. I had already asked one athlete, but was pretty sure it was a long shot that he’d agree to compete with me. Immediately after the competition, I went full stalker mode and started asking guys to join my crew. As awkward as I am socially, the asking process was even more awkward than I could even imagine and forced me to seriously put my ego in check. During this process I was asked every question imaginable — what do I push like, how does it work with a woman driver, etc., but the question that forced me to really take a different look at things was “Are you a good driver?” This was going to be a lot harder than I thought…
Nearing complete frustration with this entire process, I didn’t know what to do and how to get a crew. I called my husband, who reassured me that everything would be all right and he was a lifelong member of the #TaylorGang and would run brakes for me. One crew member down, two to go. I went to bed that night frustrated and somewhat encouraged, and woke up the next morning and went to church. During the sermon, I used my phone for a bible and suddenly a text came across. God works in mysterious ways and I took it as a great sign that the text came through at church — I had my ‘two guy.’ Dustin Greenwood joined the #TaylorGang.
The last member of the #TaylorGang was an unusual circumstance. Adrian Adams had finished fourth in push championships, yet no one had picked him up. I never even asked him, I figured he’d be in one of the top sleds and there was no chance I was getting someone who finished that high on my sled. When I found out he hadn’t yet been picked up, I jumped on the chance. I sat down and had a conversation with him and the #TaylorGang was complete: Dustin Greenwood, Adrian Adams and Nicholas Taylor. Now it was time to go to work.