(L-R) Elana Meyers Taylor and Sylvia Hoffman celebrate with their bronze medals during the flower ceremony following the 2-woman finals at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 19, 2022 in Yanqing, China.
It all started with a dream. As a girl growing up in Texas, Sylvia Hoffman played basketball and volleyball, while also long jumping for her school’s track team. One way or another, she told herself, she’d showcase those athletic talents in the Olympic Games.
A year ago, as the country observed Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Hoffman quoted the renowned civil rights leader on her Instagram.
“You can kill the dreamer, but you can’t kill the dream.”
As it turned out, her dream was almost to fruition.
A little over a month later, Hoffman, at age 32, dug her spikes into the icy track north of Beijing and made her Olympic debut as a bobsledder. One day and four blazing runs later, Hoffman, a push athlete, and pilot Elana Meyers Taylor were Olympic bronze medalists.
“It all started with that dream, and with that pursuance of, ‘I want to be this when I grow up,’” Hoffman said.
Hoffman, a Black woman, has long taken inspiration from King. And as a Black athlete competing in a predominantly white winter sport, she understands her significance. Building up that foundation for the next generation is a priority.
As the country observes Martin Luther King Jr. Day again today, Hoffman perhaps best embodies King’s legacy through another of his famous quotes: “I have a dream.”
“You can do anything that you set your mind to. As long as you actually try, anything can happen” Hoffman, now 33, said. “So I try to look at that with Martin Luther King Day, because it was more than just words or a person that was trying to lead a movement at the time. It was saying, hey if you want to do something, do it with all your heart and see what happens. Because if you never do, you’ll never find out.”
Hoffman has lived that mentality for the past two decades.
Born in Philadelphia but raised mostly in Arlington, Texas, Hoffman’s journey to the Olympics was nothing if nontraditional. After playing college basketball for LSU Shreveport, an NAIA school, she pursued her Olympic dream as a professional weightlifter. After eight years of that, in 2018, she transitioned into bobsledding — an opportunity that arose because she noticed an advertisement for a reality TV athlete talent search near her home in Colorado Springs, Colorado.