Elana Meyers Taylor attends a closing press conference for Team USA on day sixteen of the Winter Olympic Games PyeongChang 2018 on Feb. 25, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea.
The third Monday each January is set aside as a time for reflection and remembrance of Martin Luther King Jr., and this year’s holiday is especially significant for three-time Olympian Elana Meyers Taylor.
A three-time Olympic medalist and two-time individual world champ, Meyers Taylor is one of the most accomplished bobsled athletes in U.S. history. She’s also the daughter of a white mom and Black dad, and though she’s biracial she’s said her lived experience is of being Black.
And in February 2020, she became the mother to a Black son, Nico.
“(Martin Luther King Jr. Day) has always been a special holiday for me because I know fighting for equality is such a huge tenant of my entire life,” she said. “But I think now even more so that I have a Black son, I think about the world he’s growing up in and the world he’s going to inherit, and that makes it all that more special.”
Racism has always been a factor in Meyers Taylor’s life, including within her sport even after becoming an Olympic medalist, as she outlined in a post last summer on TeamUSA.org. Because of that, Meyers Taylor said she’s always made a point to remember that none of her success would have been possible if it weren’t for the sacrifices and work from people before her.
“I’m only able to do that because people like MLK and John Lewis and everybody who fought before me to give me these opportunities. I don’t take a single step for granted,” she said last week from St. Moritz, Switzerland, where she was preparing for a weekend of world cup racing. “I know for a long time, you know, people who look like us were blocked out of so many things, let alone sports, so to have this opportunity and to be on a stage where we are progressing, albeit, you know, still got plenty of work to do.”
Meyers Taylor returned to competition for the first time since 2019 earlier this month in Germany, and on Sunday she reached the world cup podium for the first time in nearly two years, taking silver in the two-woman race. She said she’s competing with a new perspective after giving birth to Nico.
“It was really tough to take that year off, being the competitor I am and seeing people winning races and stuff,” she said. “But also, you know, I got the biggest reward at the end of the day. I’ve got my son, and now he’s here traveling the world with me and enjoying that.
“Things are challenging, but things are challenging for everyone all over the world. It’s definitely a different sporting environment than I’ve ever seen before. We’re all trying to adjust and figure things out.”
Figuring things out is something the entire country is working on after a year of isolation due to the pandemic and a summer of racial and political tension, but Meyers Taylor said that while there’s obviously a lot of work to do, she was encouraged to see so many people willing to come together and stand for the equality Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed of almost 60 years ago.
Meyers Taylor has been no stranger to breaking racial and gender barriers on her way to becoming one of the most decorated women’s bobsledders in Olympic history. A former professional softball player, Meyers Taylor began bobsledding in 2007 and won an Olympic bronze medal as a push athlete three years later. Since moving to the driver's seat she’s won consecutive Olympic silver medals in 2014 and ’18, as well as world titles in 2015 and ’17.
“I’ve had the opportunity to be a first, in several parts of my career, whether it’s the first woman to do something or whether it's the first person of color to do something,” she said. “It's inspiring and stuff, but really you don't want to be the first. I don’t want to be the first African American to do anything because I want other people to have done that already.
“We still have a long way to go, but I think it starts with creating diversity in all spaces and having that type of diversity so that you can start to encourage people to go for more things.”
A Georgia native, Meyers Taylor also said she was proud to see her state elect its first Black senator this year in the Rev. Raphael Warnock, but added the fact that it wasn’t accomplished until 2021 is an example of the progress that still needs to be made.
“Now as a mother to a young child, he does give me hope for the world that (Nico is) going to inherit. Hopefully he comes of age in a day where he’s not going to be the first of anything. That’s my dream for him,” she said. “I want him to be crazy successful as any mother does, but I don’t want him to be the first person of color to do anything. I hope all those bridges are already passed over by the time he’s able to do them.”