To medal at an Olympic Games is typically the pinnacle of an athlete’s career.
|Lauryn Williams reacts after competing in the women's 4x100-meter at the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on Aug. 9, 2012 in London.|
To do it in two different sports, one summer and one winter, well, that’s just icing on the cake.
Over the last 12 years, Team USA’s Lauryn Williams had a cake with all the fixings as she became the first American woman to medal at both the summer and winter Games, and just one of five athletes in history to accomplish the feat.
Williams is a three-time Olympic sprinter on the track, having competed at the Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Games. She took silver in the 100-meter in 2004 and gold in the 4x100 in 2012 before switching over to bobsled, a drastic change for the University of Miami alumna.
Just weeks after announcing the end of her track and field career, Williams discovered bobsled through former teammate Lolo Jones, the Olympic hurdler who was going out for bobsled.
Williams jumped into a sled for the first time with Olympic medalist Elana Meyers Taylor at a rookie camp in August 2013, only six months prior to the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Her sprinting skills translated nicely to the sliding track, giving her an explosive athletic push on the sled that was hard to beat.
As a brake woman in Sochi, Williams powered to silver with Meyers Taylor in the two-woman bobsled race, finishing behind Olympic champion Canada by just a tenth of a second.
|Elana Meyers (R) and Lauryn Williams make a run during the women's bobsled heats at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Sliding Center Sanki on Feb. 18, 2014 in Rosa Khutor, Russia.|
Williams definitely etched her place in history, joining Eddie Eagan — a 1920 Olympic boxing champion and 1932 Olympic bobsled champion — as the only U.S. Olympic athletes to stand on the Olympic medal podium for both a summer and winter sport.
“The best part about being written into Olympic history is having accomplished it while working toward something completely different,” Williams said. “I think the person who tries to make history and succeeds isn’t as appreciative as I am. For me, it’d be an added bonus to my trying to help Elana achieve her goal and be a valuable addition to Team USA.”
"I felt like I was in the presence of Jesse Owens when I watched Lauryn Williams come out of that sled," Jones, also a summer and winter Olympian, said when asked about Williams’ feat. "I was so emotionally choked up. She just broke history; I can't believe it. It's just awesome. This was a good day for USA Bobsled; this was historic.”
While Williams officially retired from bobsled in February 2015, noting she was exhausted as an athlete after competing professionally for over a decade, she will forever be remembered in the Olympic history books as one who paved the way for women with multiple passions and showcased that an athlete’s career isn’t over until its over.
Stuart Lieberman covered Paralympic sports for three years at the International Paralympic Committee, including at the London 2012 and Sochi 2014 Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.