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Elana Meyers: Our First International Four-Man Competition

By Elana Meyers Taylor, Two-Time Olympic Bobsled Medalist | Nov. 21, 2014, 10 p.m. (ET)

My crew and our physio, Jerod Carnhan from the World Athletics Center, after our sixth-place finish

My coaches, the mechanics and the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation staff have been amazing. Every day of this new four-man adventure I feel like I throw something at them and they have all been eager to help. It seems like every day there’s new issues — logistics, sled stuff, pushing with crews, etc., but everyone has gone out of their way to try to help me figure this stuff out — and it’s much appreciated.

So what has been causing so much chaos? The national team was picked on Nov. 9 and then the scrambling started to reassemble crews and to get qualified to race on world cup. As my husband Nic had to go back to work at the World Athletics Center in Phoenix, I was suddenly out of a brakeman. Enter my new crew member, Carlo Valdes, who oddly enough was an athlete at UCLA when Nic was a coach there. He pushed extremely well during team trials so I was excited for him to join the team. Although he pushed from brakes for four-man team trials (on a four-man there are three positions to push from — 2, 3, and brakes), I spoke with the coaches and decided to move him to the 3 position and move Adrian Adams to the brakes, which is his normal position (Adrian has been pushing since 2012). What does this mean? It meant we now had two guys in new positions and had to work out pushing, loading and riding position. My guys were up for the challenge and worked really hard, but it made for some stressful times as everyone was trying to adapt.

We also had, and still have, La Plagne, France, to worry about and figure out. So in between training sessions, I was spending my time trying to find money for the trip, speaking with the coaches about logistics, and doing everything I can to make sure we’re qualified for world cup in December. The coaches decided I won’t be racing the world cup in Lake Placid in four-man because of the intense travel to La Plagne and back, so I’ll open up at the Calgary World Cup in four-man a week later.

Pushing off the line at the Park City North American Cup race

Regardless, we had to get through the four-man international races in Park City. I competed in the two-man race with Cherrelle Garret, which we won as she pushed very well. As excited as I was, I was nervous for the four-man races. We were off seventh, making us the first women’s piloted four-man sled to compete in an international race (Kaillie Humphries was off 10th). As nervous as I was at the line, the guys were professionals, which gave me great comfort. We blasted off the line, I got in my sled, and it was a good run — just slow. This happens sometimes in bobsled — sometimes you feel like you had a great run only to get down to the bottom and realize that it wasn’t fast — maybe you were over-controlling your sled, maybe the velocity was poor, maybe it was riding position — all these factors go into making a sled fast. At any rate, we had one more run to go and we were sitting in sixth.

We headed back up and after a brief break, it was time to go again. We blasted off the line, I felt great, and then loaded into the sled and onto my D-rings (my steering mechanism). I felt like a fish caught in a net — I tried to wiggle myself out and the whole time my 2 guy, Dustin, sees I’m not fully in the sled and is held up as well. Panicked, I tried to loosen my bobsled spike from the ring and just barely got it undone before heading directly into Curve 1.  The crew quickly loaded after me. Normally during this kind of situation I take a breath and refocus myself, but my adrenaline was going so fast from that slip up that I never caught my breath. My drive reflected my load — frantic — and when we got to the bottom we saw that we had fallen back a spot to Kaillie Humphries by 0.04 and into seventh place. This meant we would not be on the podium in our first international race. As upset as I was, Adrian, Dustin, and Carlo were encouraging. We had another race the next day to prepare for after all.

We went back to our condo and got our sled ready for the next day of racing. As tired as we were, we were focused and ready to go. We were the 10th sled down the hill for the first run. After a smooth push, load and run, we found ourselves in sixth position, seemingly slow again for another good drive. Although I wasn’t sure what happened, I knew I had another run to prepare for and this time we were determined to stay in the top six (the top six get recognized at the award ceremony). Once again, after a brief break, we headed to the line for our second run. The run again wasn’t as smooth as the first, but we held our position and remained in sixth place, our first podium as a team. As excited as I was, my mind drifted toward Calgary and preparing to leave to the next track. We would head out the next day and a lot had to be taken care of. I got in a quick lift and then met with the coaches to review my track notes (the rest of our national team would head back to Lake Placid to prepare for our world cup there). We then all packed up, said our goodbyes, and got ready to go. Calgary, here we come!

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Elana Meyers Taylor