Bobsled, soccer and water polo may not appear to have much in common. In one, athletes slide down an icy track at breakneck speed. In the other two, goals are the goal but the mode of movement is feet vs. hands and the surfaces are solid vs. fluid.
Yet athletes from all three sports have achieved incredible success as members of U.S. teams in international competition since last fall and have been selected as the three finalists for 2014-15 Olympic Team of the Year, presented by Dow. Fans can vote through Nov. 20 at TeamUSA.org/Awards.
We’ve dug into the archives to find eight facts you probably didn’t know about each nominated team and its members. Take a look, and make sure to tune into the Team USA Awards, presented by Dow, on NBCSN on Dec. 27. The Olympic Team of the Year is one of six fan-voted awards that will be presented that night in Philadelphia.
Women’s USA-1 (bobsled) The team of pilot Elana Meyers Taylor and Cherrelle Garrett became the first U.S. women’s bobsled team to win a world championship, and Meyers Taylor won six gold medals to claim the 2014-15 world cup title. Vote for USA-1.
Eight things you might not know about USA-1:
- Garrett, a former track standout at Cal, was introduced to the sport by Meyers Taylor. She ran track with Meyers Taylor’s husband, Nic Taylor, at Mt. Eden High School in Hayward, California.
- Their winning world championship margin of .43 seconds is about the same amount of time it takes a major league hitter to identify the type of pitch he’s seeing.
- Meyers Taylor has won four world championship medals in her career (gold, two silver, bronze), as both a pilot and brakeman.
- After winning a silver medal with Lauryn Williams at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, Meyers Taylor played some games with the national rugby sevens team. It was a sport she knew little about. “I knew that you couldn’t tackle anybody unless they had the ball, but I have been Googling pretty much everything,” she said just after joining the team. “I have found that Wikipedia is not the best way to learn rugby.”
- Taylor, also a bobsledder, proposed to his wife after she had just received her medal at the 2013 world championships. He dropped to one knee and proposed over the public address system while holding roses.
- Garrett, a sprinter at Cal, knew little about bobsled. But after watching the movie “Cool Runnings,” she told a coach, “I can do that.”
- Meyers Taylor was a softball star in college at George Washington University (shortstop and pitcher). She hit a game-winning grand slam in the final home game of her career.
- Meyers Taylor is the daughter of Eddie Meyers, a former record-setting running back at Navy who says bobsled is “too scary” for him. “I guess I’ll do it eventually,” he once said. “But only if Elana drives for me.”
Women’s World Cup team (soccer) The U.S women defeated Japan 5-2 in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup final. With the victory, the U.S. became the first nation to win three Women’s World Cups. It was the United States’ first World Cup title since 1999. Vote for the USWNT.
Eight things you might not know about the USWNT:
- In the championship game, Carli Lloyd scored the fastest hat trick in women’s World Cup history, scoring goals in the third, fifth and 16th minute.
- Star midfielder Megan Rapinoe scored two goals and assisted on two others over six World Cup games. Afterward, her hometown of Redding, California, declared July 21 Megan Rapinoe Day. “Megan is a tremendous example of a young person whose hard work and dedication to excellence has made her a champion," Mayor Francie Sullivan said.
- Defender Becky Sauerbrunn was one of the under-recognized stars for Team USA this summer — and one of five U.S. players who played in every minute of every World Cup game. Afterward, though, she gained some attention with a unique Twitter Q&A. Among her responses, Sauerbrunn said she’d most want Meghan Klingenberg or Rapinoe for protection in the case of a Zombie apocalypse, and she turned down a hypothetical opportunity to fight MMA and 2008 Olympic judo medalist Ronda Rousey. “I like my arms where they are,” Sauerbrunn said.
- An amazing 25.4 million viewers tuned into the Women’s World Cup final. That made it most-watched soccer event in U.S. television history.
- Making more history, the champs became the first women’s team to be given a ticker-tape parade through the Canyon of Heroes in New York City. Team members, riding on multiple floats and accompanied by marching bands, were showered with about two tons of confetti.
- Abby Wambach, 35, announced her December retirement after the World Cup as the leading scorer in the history of women’s international play, with 184 goals. When she first joined the U.S. team in 2001, she was such a talker that veteran teammate Julie Foudy gave her a T-shirt that read, “Help, I’m talking and I can’t shut up.”
- Lloyd, awarded the Golden Ball for being the best player in the World Cup, has a flavor named after her at an ice cream shop in New Jersey, where she lives and went to school (Rutgers): Carli’s Cake Batter Cookie Dough Kick.
- In July, the team won the ESPY award for Best Team of 2015, beating out the Golden State Warriors, Chicago Blackhawks, New England Patriots, the Ohio State football team and the UConn women’s basketball team.
Women’s Senior National Team (water polo) The U.S. squad defeated the Netherlands 5-4 in the final of the 2015 FINA World Championship. It’s the fourth world title for Team USA. The U.S. women’s water polo team became the first to hold all four major titles concurrently: the Olympic Games, world championship, World Cup and World League. Vote for the U.S. women’s water polo team.
Eight things you might not know about the U.S. women’s water polo team:
- Attacker Rachel Fattal was named FINA World Championship MVP after scoring 18 goals. She says her favorite quote is from Dr. Seuss: “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.”
- The U.S. team finished this year 28-1 overall.
- Goalkeeper Ashleigh Johnson, who made 66 saves and was selected to the all-world championship team, was forced to take a swimming class for safety reasons (with her siblings) after her mother bought a house with a pool in Florida.
- Maddie Musselman, a 17-year-old high school senior, scored a goal in the world championship final. She’s the daughter of former major league pitcher Jeff Musselman.
- Coach Adam Krikorian also coached the U.S. women to the Olympic title in London in 2012. After that victory, players draped all of their medals around his neck because coaches don’t win medals. “It was a gesture that was more meaningful than anything I’ve experienced during my coaching career,” he said.
- Center Kami Craig, a veteran of the London team who scored six goals in the world championship tournament, always drinks coffee before each game.
- Attacker Kiley Neushul of Stanford grew up in Santa Barbara, California, and first learned the game at age 7 from her mom, Cathy, a coach at UC Santa Barbara. The coaching paid off: Kiley has twice received the Peter J. Cutino Award given to the nation’s best collegiate player.
- Defender Maggie Steffens in 2014 was selected FINA Women’s Water Polo Player of the Year and was tournament MVP at the London Games. She’s also crafty. As part of a design class last year at Stanford, Steffens created a dominoes board to give to her dad for Christmas.
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.