By Lauren Gibbs, 2018 Olympic Bobsled Silver Medalist | May 01, 2019, 2:15 p.m. (ET)

Lauren Gibbs poses for a photo in front of the Olympic rings at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 in PyeongChang, South Korea.

 

Lauren Gibbs is a bobsled brakewoman who has been on the U.S. national team since the 2014-15 season. In her Olympic debut at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, Gibbs earned silver with pilot Elana Meyers Taylor. Gibbs has also earned 2016 world championships bronze and 14 world cup medals. Follow her journey to the 2022 Winter Games on Instagram and Twitter.

Interested in seeing if you have what it takes to join Gibbs on the U.S. bobsled team? Apply today aT TeamUSA.org/NextOlympicHopeful.

 

One of my earliest memories of the Olympics is marching around my parents’ family room as a kid to “Olympic Fanfare” blaring from the record player, imagining myself walking into Opening Ceremony. Competitive sports have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. As a kid I played soccer, ran track, and dabbled in swimming and softball. I had an abundance of energy and athletics became my outlet.

By the time I got to high school, I took a more pragmatic approach to sport; instead of trying to be good at every sport, I settled on volleyball as the conduit to get me into a good university. Beyond that, I didn’t see much of a future as a professional athlete. At 5-foot-10 I was lucky enough to play D1 volleyball and I always thought the Olympics were reserved for athletes who somehow had found a sport at 4 years old that they were perfectly suited for and had given up their childhood to pursue.

 

Lauren Gibbs poses for a photo. 

 

So, fast forward 20-plus years, at 33 years old how did I find myself receiving an Olympic medal in a sport that just three and half years prior my only knowledge of was a 1990’s movie featuring John Candy (“Cool Runnings”)? Till this day, I can honestly say, I’m not completely sure myself. 

During the summer of 2014, I was living in Denver, was managing a sales team of over 200 people, wearing a suit to work every day and was bored out of my mind. When my friend suggested that I try out for the U.S. bobsled team, making the team was the furthest thing from my mind. After looking into what went into the tryout, I was intrigued by the location. The combine, as they called it, would be held at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, which was only about an hour away from me. The combine was being held over a weekend, and there was an option to tour the facility and eat lunch on campus, so I was sold. What a cool story I would have to tell at work that following Monday, about the time I went to make a fool out of myself in front of a bunch of Olympians. Why not?

I remember arriving at the track that morning with a gallon of water and some sunscreen. After doing a quick warm-up, 5 whole minutes of stretching to be exact, I waited for the real track athletes to finish their dynamic stretches, track drills and buildups for the combine to begin. To say I was out of my depth was an understatement; but, everyone was really nice, I made some friends that I still keep in touch with today and left with an Olympic T-shirt as a souvenir from the campus shop, thinking that was the end of it. I have never been so wrong in my life!

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Over the next few months I found myself flying back and forth between Denver and the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, New York. Ever heard of Lake Placid? I hadn’t! Lake Placid is a tiny town in upstate New York state; it is so far upstate that it is much closer to Canada than it is to New York City. It also happens to be the where USA Bobsled & Skeleton is head quartered. By October, I had completed two combines, rookie push camp, national push championships and was now preparing to take my first bobsled ride with a bobsled pilot who had already won two Olympics medals – her name is Elana Meyers Taylor, you may have heard of her. As the day of my first trip down the track neared, I became increasingly anxious. It didn’t help that when I asked one of the other veteran bobsledders what her first ride down the track felt like she responded with, “being kicked off a cliff in a trash can.” Thank you Jamie Greubel Poser, another Olympic medalist pilot, for giving me a good scare! 

Bobsled, as I was finding out was much different than any other sport I had ever competed in. It required long hours at the bobsled track, moving 300-plus-pound sleds around in the cold just to take two, 1-minute runs down the track. As bobsled athletes we are responsible for a good amount of maintenance on the sleds. We take care of and sand the runners (the “blades” on the bobsled) to prepare them for race day, we transport the sleds to and from the track every day, and we pack the sleds for shipping when we travel abroad.

 

 

On top of all of that we have to find time to do our dryland training (sprinting and lifting) to make sure we are in top shape come race day. My first season was a blur; there was so much to learn and I felt like I was screwing up more than I was helping, but come race day all of that uncertainty melted away. For a couple hours every week, on race day, I got to feel like a superhero. Competing in front of crowd with the letters “USA” on my back made the long hours in the cold worth it; and just like that I was hooked. 

As the years continued on leading up the 2018 Games and bobsled became my new normal, I began to realize that though I had not been bobsledding since I was 4, I had in fact been training and preparing to become an Olympic bobsledder most of my life. The explosiveness I had developed from years of volleyball is what I used to “hit” the bobsled and get it going at the start. The powerlifting and CrossFit I did for fun after college taught me to the grit and resilience I needed to get comfortable being uncomfortable, and when I quit my job to chase my Olympic dream full-time, my sales skills helped me raise money to fund my training.

Who knew?! 

Even now as I sit in my OTC dorm room typing this, it’s hard to believe that I am a regular at the Olympic Training Center; it has become my home away from home. This past season was my fifth season on the U.S. national bobsled team. I have gone from rookie to Olympic medalist, to one of the most veteran athletes on the team. On the women’s team I go by GG, short for Grandma Gibbs because I also happen to be the oldest athlete on the team. While this adventure I am on may have begun with a great deal of uncertainty, a high level of risk and no guarantee of going anywhere past that first tryout, I sure am glad I took my shot. Being a U.S. Olympian has truly become one of the greatest honors of my life.

 

Elana Meyers Taylor (L) and Lauren Gibbs celebrate winning silver at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on Feb. 21, 2018 in PyeongChang, South Korea.

 

Well that’s my story, what’s yours? Could you be the next one to turn your Olympic dreams into reality? Head on over to TeamUSA.org/NextOlympicHopeful and register today to find out if you have what it takes to represent Team USA at the highest level! Fifty of the nation’s top athletes will be invited to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs to compete for a chance to be one of six winners. Those winners will get invited to a national team camp in one of six different sports. You have nothing to lose and the possibility to have the experience of a lifetime! 

Go Team USA!