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Three-Time Olympic Medalist Elana Meyers Taylor Sheds Light On Down Syndrome Awareness Month & Raising A Child With Special Needs

By Peggy Shinn | Oct. 19, 2020, 12:06 p.m. (ET)

Elana Meyers Taylor and Nic Taylor pose for a photo with their son, Nico, who was diagnosed with Down syndrome shortly after birth.


Elana Meyers Taylor’s dream is to hang two gold medals around her son Nico’s neck at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022. She aims to add an Olympic gold to her two silver and one bronze in women’s bobsled, and then win another gold medal in monobob’s Olympic debut.

The three-time Olympic medalist and two-time women’s bobsled world champion also wants to bring awareness to Down syndrome. Nico was born on February 22, 2020, and was diagnosed with Down syndrome shortly after his birth. 

Since then, Elana and husband Nic Taylor, who is also training for the Beijing Games in bobsled, have come up to speed quickly on what they can do to help Nico achieve his potential. 

“People with Down syndrome can live long, happy successful lives,” Elana said by phone from home in Georgia. “When people get this diagnosis of Down syndrome, they’re immediately afraid. I’ve even read some people go through a grieving process. I never went through a grieving process with my son. I love him, and I think he’s absolutely perfect.”

Elana also wants to inspire other parents who have special needs kids. 

“This is a whole new world for us,” she added. “But I’m going to figure out how to do this and still be an elite-level bobsledder. For parents out there who have been given a prenatal diagnosis and are wondering if they can make it work, my goal is to show them that they can, even if they’re traveling around the world.”

And even in a pandemic.

Miracle Baby
Nico was born early, at 36 weeks, between the third and fourth heats of the 2020 women’s bobsled world championships.

He was in many ways a miracle baby. Elana did not even think that she could get pregnant. She had never had a regular menstrual cycle. But because she is an athlete, she did not want to take medication or hormones to aid conception. She and Nic decided that if it happened, it happened.

On September 19, 2019, she announced her pregnancy on social media, alerting her fans to the happy news and to the fact that she would be on maternity leave last season.

But her pregnancy was not easy. She had polyhydramnios—too much amniotic fluid—so was seeing specialists throughout her pregnancy. From the first ultrasound, doctors were concerned. Nico had various problems, such as a low heart rate. But he hung in there. 

On February 20, he was not moving as much as he had been. So doctor’s induced Elana. After two days of labor, she gave birth to Nico, who spent eight days in the neo-natal intensive care unit. Diagnostic tests showed that he had Down syndrome—a third copy of chromosome 21. Down syndrome is associated with physical and development delays, as well as intellectual disabilities.

Nico was released from the hospital two days before the first case of COVID-19 came through the door.  

In some ways, the pandemic made Elana and Nic’s lives a bit easier. Nic, who’s in chiropractic school, transitioned to online school. And they set up a home gym.

“I could have a stroller right there with Nico and didn’t have to worry about putting him in daycare,” said Elana.

But scheduling Nico’s extra care appointments was challenging. Appointments were either virtual, or if they were in person, only one parent could be present.

“They were asking us to make complex medical decisions with only one parent in the room,” said Elana. “I was like, I really need to talk to my husband, who’s studying this form of medicine right now.

“So that’s been the hardest part: just making sure Nico’s okay, and he’s getting the help he needs.”

This is a whole new world for us, But I’m going to figure out how to do this and still be an elite-level bobsledder.

Nico attends occupational therapy.


GiGi’s Playhouse
Shortly after Nico’s birth, the Taylors began working with GiGi’s Playhouse, an organization that wants to change the way the world views people with Down syndrome. The organization helps facilitate early intervention therapies that babies with Down syndrome need to help them thrive. GiGi’s Playhouse also pays for the therapeutic appointments, and as individuals age, helps facilitate tutoring in school, resume-building, job placement, etc.

As their website reads, they “change lives through consistent delivery of free educational, therapeutic-based and career development programs for individuals with Down syndrome, their families and the community.”

Nico has physical and occupational therapy once a week. He is supposed to have speech therapy, but with the pandemic, they have been unable to schedule it. He also has profound hearing loss, so he has audio verbal therapy once a week.

This winter, Elana is wearing GiGi’s Playhouse on her bobsled helmet.

Back to the World Cup
The Taylor family drove to Lake Placid, New York, this past weekend. Official training for the U.S. team begins November 1 at Lake Placid’s Olympic Sliding Complex, with team trials later in the month. 

After Thanksgiving, the team moves to Park City, Utah, for more training and trials. The national team will be announced on December 16, 2020, with U.S. bobsledders joining the IBSF World Cup tour after the Holidays to minimize travel and reduce quarantine requirements.

The 2021 bobsled and skeleton world championships in February were moved to Altenberg, Germany, from Lake Placid.

Elana and Nic have already lined up physical and occupational therapy for Nico in Lake Placid. Once on the world cup tour, it will be a whole new world. They know of only one other woman on the tour who has a baby—Elisabeth Maier, a Canadian skeleton athlete who won a bronze medal at the 2015 world championships and competed in the 2018 PyeongChang Games. Maier’s son, Hendrix, is two months older than Nico. The two women have traded training tips and other ideas.

Elana and Elisabeth are not the first moms to compete on the IBSF World Cup tour.

Team USA’s Noelle Pikus-Pace traveled on the world cup tour with her husband and two children in the years leading up to the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games. In Sochi, she won an Olympic silver medal.

“Seeing Noelle at Sochi hang her silver medal around her two kids’ necks, it was one of the coolest things,” said Elana, who now wants to have a similar experience with Nico.

Dreams for Nico
Although Elana and Nic have joked that they are three-quarters of the way to a four-man bobsled team now, they don’t care if Nico catches the Olympic bug or not. 

“He’s going to have his dreams and go after them, and I'm going to do whatever I can to support him, whether that’s to be an Olympic bobsledder or not,” Elana said before joking, “Hopefully, he chooses a warm-weather sport.”

Whatever path Nico follows, Elana wants him to know that Down syndrome should not be a label that affects his passion.

“The biggest thing is, I’m not going to put limitations on him,” she stated. “We shouldn’t put limitations on kids with special needs. That’s what I want to show everyone through our journey.”

Peggy Shinn

An award-winning freelance writer based in Vermont, Peggy Shinn has covered five Olympic Games. She has contributed to TeamUSA.org since its inception in 2008.

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Elana Meyers Taylor