Elana Meyers Taylor and Lauren Gibbs celebrate winning silver in the women's bobsleigh at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on Feb. 21, 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea -- Four years ago, Elana Meyers Taylor published a blog post immediately following the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014, where she won a silver medal, upgrading from her bronze in 2010.
“So how does it feel to feel like you choked in front of the whole world?” she wrote of her silver-medal winning performance. “How does it feel to have your lifelong dream slip away literally from your fingertips? It sucks.”
Meyers Taylor had been leading the race through three of the four runs before she made mistakes on her final run and was passed by Canadian Kaillie Humphries, who had also won the 2010 Olympic title.
As the post continued, Meyers Taylor writes about letting “all of America down” and about how easily the tears come and that “each time they come I’m reminded of what happened and how I never want to feel this way again.”
She immediately told reporters at the time that she planned to train even harder for PyeongChang and see what happened in four years.
When that time came, Meyers Taylor and brakeman Lauren Gibbs won silver Wednesday night in PyeongChang.
They finished the four-run race just 0.07 seconds behind gold medalists Mariana Jamanka and Lisa Buckwitz of Germany – who had never won an international bobsled event before. Finishing 0.38 seconds behind Meyers Taylor and Gibbs for bronze were Canadians Humphries and Phylicia George, a two-time Olympic hurdler.
The silver medal marked a few pieces of history for Meyers Taylor.
She is now tied with Steven Holcomb and Patrick Martin for the most decorated U.S. Olympic bobsledders (three medals each). She and Humphries are now the only women in the world to have won three Olympic bobsled medals. And the medal continued a long streak of success for the U.S. women’s bobsled program. Team USA is the only nation to medal at every Games since women’s bobsled made its Olympic debut in 2002.
Meyers Taylor had worked harder over the past four years, improving her results and overcoming several setbacks, including physical injuries and personal hardships.
And yet she had again won a silver medal. But this time it was different. When speaking to reporters after the race, she was elated.
“I won’t be writing the same blog!” Meyers Taylor joked. “I am so proud of this medal, I’m so proud of Lauren. In Sochi I felt like I lost the gold; here we won the silver. …
“I wanted to throw down races here and throw down races I could be proud of, and I really feel like we did that, so I was just super excited. I knew we’d put down something good. Unfortunately, Mariama put down something better but we made her go get it, and that’s all you can ask for for racing. You give your best, she gives her best, and those are good races.”
Jamie Greubel Poser and Aja Evans had also given their best, but the race didn’t work out the way they had hoped. After winning bronze at both the 2014 Olympics and 2017 world championships for Team USA, the pair came up short of their second Olympic medal, finishing fifth, 0.13 seconds from the podium.
“Jamie and I are fighters, so we came in fighting ‘til the end and we laid everything on the line,” Evans said through tears. “It’s still tough and it’s going to be tough for a while, but we laid it all on the line so there’s zero regrets.”
“It’s a very technical track. … It was really fun to compete on, I really, really enjoy sliding on this track,” Greubel Poser said. “Unfortunately, it’s part of the sport. It’s not, ‘Who wants it bad enough,’ it’s not a test of endurance and it’s very challenging to do the same thing four times. I did the best that I could do. I made a few mistakes that cost us but I gave absolutely everything I had today and I couldn’t have driven better.”
Despite the disappointment and heartbreak, they had nothing but positive words when speaking about their experience at their second Olympics.
“It’s been beautiful. The love and support has been out of this world from so many people back home, from so many people around the world,” Evans said. “To have them praying for us, caring for us and just wanting the best for us is the best part of this entire experience. Competing in South Korea has been amazing, they have been very accommodating, and this track is beautiful, but having that love and support from everyone back home means the world to us.”
While Meyers Taylor slid to silver in Sochi with Lauryn Williams, an Olympic gold and silver medalist in track and field, the Lauren she slid with in PyeongChang was making her first Olympic appearance there. In fact, bobsled wasn’t anywhere on her radar during the Sochi Games.
In 2014, Gibbs was earning a six-figure salary as a sales manager in Denver until a few years ago. She had earned degrees from both Brown University and Pepperdine University and, according to Gibbs, was “buying expensive things and then I was bored out of my mind and decided I didn’t work this hard to feel this way.”
Opportunity came knocking at just the right time.
She knew nothing about bobsled before July 2014 when Meyers Taylor – known for recruiting some of the team’s most talented brakemen to the sport – texted her and encouraged her to give the sport a try.
Meyers Taylor had been training, and briefly competing, with the U.S. women’s rugby team at the time when team captain Jillion Potter told her about Gibbs, who she had seen working out at a CrossFit.
Gibbs, now 33 (as is Meyers Taylor), had competed in volleyball while at Brown. Meyers Taylor was a softball player at George Washington University herself, and the U.S. bobsled team has long been made up of primarily collegiate athletes, including a few former volleyball players who have gone on to succeed in bobsled.
Once Meyers Taylor heard the numbers Gibbs was lifting, she was sold.
“It was a text message and at that point I had no idea who she was,” Gibbs recalled. “I had never seen an Olympic Training Center so I thought, ‘Wow, that’ll be cool, I’ll just go down there and check out the Olympic Training Center.’ Then I got invited to a camp in Lake Placid and I looked her up and I was like, ‘Holy crap, she’s got two Olympic medals.’ The first bobsled race I ever watched I competed in – I didn’t watch Sochi, sorry guys.”
She made the national team her first season and has since earned 12 world cup medals, world championship bronze and, now, Olympic silver. It was a bold move she has never regretted.
“I made a promise to myself a few years ago that every opportunity that came my way I would check it out because at the end of this life I just want to have a really cool story and so the more random things you try the cooler your story gets, and this is about as cool as a story gets.”
Gibbs and Meyers Taylor both already have their sights set on the future.
After they leaped into the stands following the race Wednesday, the bobsledders were embraced by family, friends and fans chanting “U-S-A! U-S-A!” followed by chants of “Four more years! Four more years!”
Both confirmed after that they intend to compete for (at least) four more years and aim for gold at the 2022 Olympics in Beijing.
“I thought maybe a good time to tell my parents I’m not going back to work is right when I won a medal, so you just kind of slip that in there,” Gibbs joked. “It’s all about timing – I have a sales background, so always be closing!”