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.
I couldn’t stop smiling and laughing. As a Taylor Swift song played to start my warm-up music, I was pretty sure I was the only person warming up to her right now. This was going to be one of those races.
There was a nervous energy when I arrived to the track that morning with the #TaylorGang. We got to the garage and loaded our sled. I hopped into a sled truck that was being driven by one of our coaches, Mike Kohn, and started talking and making chit-chat. He asked how I was feeling, to which I responded I was just having fun. He dropped me off at the bottom of the track to start the slow walk up while the rest of the #TaylorGang headed up to the start with our sled (The Wiz) to prepare for the race. Before every sliding day, drivers walk the track to review the curves and go over our plan. Usually this walk is done in the track, but on race days because they try to protect the ice, we’re confined to walking outside the track, which is usually covered with shades to further protect the ice. Every race day for the past two years, including in Sochi, Russia, I walked with Jamie Greubel Poser and Jazmine Fenlator. Usually on the walks, we review a few curves, but a lot of time we just talk about random stuff, which I think serves as a distraction from the nervousness all of us feel about the race. This had become my routine and I was so used to it I didn’t realize how much of a routine it had become, until today. Today I walked alone. I breezed by curve after curve, running some lines but mostly trying to keep the nervousness at bay. Usually I have a few crazy Jazmine comments to keep the mood light and Jamie looking for her race-day moose, but today I had none — none to distract me. So I had to distract myself, and all I could think about was how lucky I was to be here in Park City, Utah, on this beautiful cold day, about to drive a four-man sled in a race… completely awesome and I couldn’t stop smiling.
I got to the top of the track, prepared the sled with my team and completed my warm-up. The clock was ticking down until it was our time to go and fully warmed-up and ready, I sat in the start house nervously chipping at my red fingernail polish and laughed — another problem that no one else in this race likely has to deal with — chipped polish. No more time to try to make my polish look halfway decent after two nights of sled work; it was go time.
|Push start photo by Bree Schaaf, who piloted a four-woman sled in Lake Placid|
I remember walking out to the line with my same walk as I walk every race. I got to the line, saw the sled presented, but also saw all my female teammates with signs and banners shouting #TaylorGang. If I wasn’t nervous before, I definitely was now. I started getting ready to go: taking off my warm clothes to strip down to my speed suit. I went to throw them to the side, when who was standing there? None other than Jamie Greubel Poser, ready to collect my clothes. She may not have been on the track walk, but she was there and it meant the world to me. The 60-second clock went off, I started my pre-run cadence with my guys, and stared down the track. I slapped my visor down, got in position and we took off.
When we got to the bottom, I knew we had a good run, despite some problems with the load. We’re all rookies on the #TaylorGang having never pushed together before this week. We ran a little too deep on the load and ended up going into Corner 1 awkwardly, which cost us some time. The clock read 49.04 seconds, a time that at that moment held no meaning, but later would mean we’re in third place, behind Olympians Steve Holcomb and Nick Cunningham. Sweet. One run down, one to go.
Back at the top, the women’s team greeted us excitedly. I was surrounded by hugs as soon as I left the truck holding the sleds, but I still had work to do. One more heat. One more to go. If I finished at least third, I would qualify for the national team for the four-man event.
After a short break, the race started again. Fourth place was a mere 0.05 seconds behind, a very close margin. As I walked to the line, I heard the announcer commentate the fourth place run, a sled that was driven by up and coming pilot Codie Bascue, who also happens to be the pilot who drove Nic — my husband — in both his first Junior World Championships and senior world championships; this was getting good. I’m a fan of good races and I’m a fan of putting on a good show. If I don’t win every race, the least I want to do is put on a good race, and this race was no different. As I heard the announcer commentate Codie’s run, the only thing I kept hearing was “smooth, smooth, smooth” — meaning he was having a great run. “Block it out, block it out,” I kept telling myself, but there was no use. I then turned my focus to myself and getting ready for my run, not worried about winning or losing, just breathing and focusing on each step. I did my pre-cadence with the guys, slammed down my visor, got on the bar and off we went.
I made mistakes, I knew it. It wasn’t as clean as the first run, but during the entire run I fought — fought to get on the best lines I could, taking it curve by curve. When we got to the bottom, the finish line said “2,” meaning we were ranked second. I wasn’t sure what that meant, because I knew Steve Holcomb had already completed his run. My teammate Jazmine was there holding up a “1,” meaning I had held my position. When Dustin lifted me out of the sled (I have yet to figure out how to gracefully get out of a four-man), I ran over and hugged Jazmine. It’s crazy the emotions that you go through at the end of the race. At that moment, as excited as I was about finishing third at the U.S. team trials and qualifying for the national team, I was so excited to share it with the women I had started driving with: Jamie and Jazmine. We’ve been together for so long now, through so many ups and downs, and now we had this to share as well.
Of course, I couldn’t forget my crew. They believed in me; they agreed to slide with me and fight this fight. They could’ve slid with other drivers, but they chose me. They took a chance on me and threw caution to the wind, and we did it. Of course none of this would be possible without world’s greatest husband, who I kissed shortly after crossing the line, making us a rare brakeman/driver combo that kisses after races.
So what happens now? That’s the key question. In order to race on world cup, I have to compete in five races on three different tracks. I will compete in races in Park City next week and Calgary the week after, but after that it gets tricky. In order to compete on world cup, I still need one more race on one track. My only option is to go to La Plagne, France, and hop in a race right before world cup starts in December, which is where things get tricky. I had falsely assumed that the FIBT would grant me and Canadian Kaillie Humphries waivers to compete in world cup based on our previous driving experience. Right now, the waiver out of the final race on one more track looks unlikely, which means I need to go to France if I have any hope of competing in world cup this season. Right now it’s coming down to a money issue: Can we raise the money we need to go to France? Can we organize a trip for me and my guys so we can race on world cup? These are the questions that need to be answered — and fast. What started off as such an exciting moment in women’s bobsled history turned sour quick. We need to get to France, but how?