Elana Meyers Taylor competes at the IBSF World Championships 2021 Altenberg Women's Monobob competition on Feb. 13, 2021 in Altenberg, Germany.
In Elana Meyers Taylor’s experience, if you don’t make an Olympic team in one sport, sometimes it’s simply better to try again — in a different one.
After a standout career as a shortstop, pitcher and third baseman at George Washington University and a year playing professionally, Meyers Taylor tried, and failed, to make the U.S. Olympic Softball Team.
“I think part of the reason I didn’t make the Olympic softball team is just I put so much pressure on myself,” Meyers Taylor recalled. “I don’t know that anybody could live up to that kind of pressure.”
Having seen Vonetta Flowers win an Olympic gold medal in the sport at the Olympic Winter Games Salt Lake City 2002, Meyers Taylor was inspired to try the bobsled.
“A huge part of it was seeing Vonetta Flowers succeed on an elite level and seeing that she was from Birmingham, Alabama, which is off the same stretch of highway as me,” said Meyers Taylor, of Douglasville, Georgia, “and then also seeing that she looks like me. She’s a Black girl from the South. She transitioned from track.”
Meyers Taylor already had an early role model in her father, Eddie Meyers, an exceptional multi-sport athlete who became a star running back at the U.S. Naval Academy. The former Marine had a brief NFL career.
“He taught me the drive that I would have to (have) and the dedication I would have to have in order to make it,” Meyers Taylor said. “Both my parents knew how rare it was to be able to reach the elite level as an athlete, so it was never an expectation for me to go to that level.
“I never really felt any pressure, even though my dad obviously had a very successful career. It was never anything like I felt like I had to live up to his legacy.”
So, when she turned toward bobsled — and later, rugby — Meyers Taylor eased up on herself.
“I just went into bobsled and then later into rugby with no expectations,” said Meyers Taylor, “with the expectation that I was going to try as hard as I can and see what I could do, and I think that really allowed me to free my mind and just go into it with an open mind.”
“I didn’t know how to train for bobsled or anything like that, but I just went into it with an open mind.”
Meyers Taylor became a sponge for information from others around her who knew more about her new sport than she did. She would advise young athletes seeking to switch sports today to do the same.
“Keep your mind open and be willing to learn,” Meyers Taylor said. “I think that’s the major thing that’s led to my success. And even though I only played rugby for a short amount of time, it’s part of the reason why I was able to get two caps with Team USA, is because I was just willing to learn and willing to be open.”
She also had to be willing to adjust her training regimen as she went from sport to sport.
“I used to run a lot of mileage, do a lot of strength endurance stuff,” she remembered of her softball days. “It was completely different from what I did for bobsled. Oddly enough, those kinds of things would be more of what I would need for rugby. I didn’t necessarily have the fitness for rugby coming off of bobsled, either.
“Bobsled’s all short sprints, really heavy lifting and fortunately, those were my strengths, anyways. Nowadays, they train softball players like power athletes. A lot of the softball players nowadays would have a lot easier transition into bobsled than I did back in the day.”
Her long and impressive bobsled resume shows how successful Meyers Taylor’s transition was: two Olympic silver medals and a bronze medal in three Winter Games appearances, and the first world championship in women’s bobsled for the U.S. in 2015. Looking back, she sees how softball helped her succeed in bobsled.
“I learned so much from softball,” she said. “I was a team captain each of my five years in college, too, so learning how to captain a team and then needing to do it from a bobsled perspective as a pilot, that definitely helped me in and of itself.”
Over the past year, Meyers Taylor, a past president of the Women’s Sports Foundation who is married to fellow bobsledder Nic Taylor, has dealt with the challenge of becoming a mother during a pandemic.
“It was always part of my dream to have a child and compete and go for the Olympics with a kid,” she said. “There are certain things that I expected. But I didn’t expect to do it in a pandemic. It was really the pandemic that made things more difficult.”
Less than a year away from the 2022 Beijing Games, Meyers Taylor is focused on her fitness and going for a pair of gold medals in bobsled.
“I guess my short-term (goal) is to be in the best shape of my life,” Meyers Taylor said. “I’m 36, I’m coming off of having a baby, and I just want to go out there and show the world that you could still be successful with everything that goes on with life.”