Better late than never

Dec. 09, 2015, 10:32 a.m. (ET)

Better late than never

By Kristen Gowdy

Photo Credit: Charlie Booker

Lauren Gibbs only wishes she had found bobsled a bit sooner.

At 31, she is the oldest push athlete on the women’s bobsled national team, but if she learned anything in her rookie campaign last season, it’s that experience is more important than age.

Pushing for Jamie Greubel Poser — another bobsled veteran — for the majority of the 2014-15 season, Gibbs earned three podium finishes on the World Cup circuit and capped off the year with a fifth-place finish at the World Championships. 

Gibbs resume speaks for itself, and in terms of her success, she says being one of the older athletes doesn’t affect her much. But it does present a whole different challenge.

“I have less time in the sport, meaning I have less time to qualify for the Olympic Games,” she said. “I have to get a lot done in a short amount of time.”

Gibbs is used to juggling a busy schedule, though. Growing up, the Los Angeles, Calif. native played soccer and volleyball, danced tap and ballet, ran track and was a member of the student council in high school.

It was during her sophomore year of high school that she settled on volleyball as her primary sport. She continued to run track — and was recruited by colleges to long jump and triple jump — but chose to pursue volleyball. Academic success, along with AAU All-American honors led Gibbs to Brown University, where she played four years of Division I volleyball while serving as team captain and was named to the academic All-Ivy League team.

After graduating from Brown in 2006, Gibbs continued to stay active by participating in CrossFit, but didn’t further pursue volleyball. She attended Pepperdine University to work towards her master’s degree in Business administration.

Two weeks after Gibbs earned her master’s, however, sport found a way back into her life.

One of Gibbs friends from her CrossFit gym, Jill Potter, had encouraged her to try out for bobsled in July 2014. Potter had played a season of rugby with Team USA bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor, and knew Gibbs was built to push a bobsled. Two weeks later, Gibbs graduated from Pepperdine, and was ready to give being an athlete another shot.

By August, Gibbs had traveled to Colorado Springs, Colo., to attend her first combine.

“I am still not even sure how it all came together,” she said. “One minute I was having my mom look for my track spikes, which I had not used since high school, and the next thing I knew I was hopping in the back of a bobsled for my first ride with Elana.”

Gibbs showed enough promise at the combine to earn an invitation to a weeklong push camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. She placed first out of 10 athletes in the rookie push camp, and was invited back for the national push championships, where she finished second behind only Lauryn Williams, one of the most versatile Olympians in history and a bobsled Olympic medalist.

At the team trials, Gibbs faced a setback when she pulled her hamstring during the first selection race, but earned a spot in Meyers Taylor’s sled for the selection process. The sled finished first in the second race of the trials.

With that win — Gibbs first as a bobsledder — she was well on her way to not only a spot on the national team, but also to falling in love with a completely new sport.

“It is unlike anything I have ever experienced,” she said. “I’m having a blast. I love that it is something most people never get to experience, I love that I feel like there is always something to improve on. It’s definitely never boring.”

Traveling internationally with the national team this past year left Gibbs with little doubt about her future with bobsled — she’s all in. That was affirmed in the very first race of the season in Lake Placid, when the American women swept the podium.

Gibbs, pushing for Greubel Poser, took the bronze. It was a distinctive moment for Gibbs, one that would set the tone for the rest of her rookie season.

“It was here at home in Lake Placid and we swept the podium,” she said. “I think that is only the second time that has happened and for that to happen during our first race and for it to be on our home track was special.”

Pushing mostly for Greubel Poser the rest of the season, Gibbs sleds never finished below eighth on the competitive World Cup circuit.

And though she had to put her professional dreams on hold — Gibbs hopes to one day own her own company — she has discovered a whole new dream.

“I feel like my bobsled experience can only enhance my resume, if and when I am ready to re-enter the workforce full-time,” Gibbs said. “The nice thing about education is that it doesn’t expire.”

Gibbs is also focused on the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games, and while she works for Trumaker, a company that produces built-to-fit clothes for men, in the offseason, it is the Olympic Games that she is striving for in the immediate future.

Gibbs once again qualified for the national team in 2015, her second time in as many years in the sport. Thought she admits she still has a long way to go, Gibbs is off to a fast start on the World Cup tour, winning the bronze medal in the opening race in Alternberg, Germany with Greubel Poser.

Overall, it’s been worth it.

“The team is a lot of fun and I feel like I have already made lifelong friendships here,” she said. “I just want to reach my potential as a bobsled athlete.”