Both American teams in medal hunt after first two heats of 2018 Olympic women’s bobsled race
Photo: Getty Images
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Feb. 20, 2018)- Elana Meyers Taylor (Douglasville, Ga.) and Lauren Gibbs (Los Angeles, Calif.) are in silver medal position, just 0.07 seconds out of first place, following the first two runs of the 2018 Olympic bobsled competition in PyeongChang. Teammates Jamie Greubel Poser (Newtown, Pa.) and Aja Evans (Chicago, Ill.) sit in fourth place, only 0.02 seconds out of medal position.
Meyers Taylor arrived at the Seoul Incheon Airport earlier this month wearing a walking boot while nursing an Achilles injury suffered the week before traveling, but the two-time Olympic medalist wasn’t deterred or worried about her timeline for recovery.
“I’m prepared,” she said earlier this week after a training run. “I’m confident.”
She left little doubt about her preparedness tonight, breaking the start record in the opening heat with powerhouse Gibbs on the brakes. Gibbs began bobsledding — and made her first national team — during the 2014-2015 season. She has been on the national team every year since, and her 11 World Cup medals are highlighted by a World Championship bronze with Meyers Taylor in the 2016 World Championships in Igls, Austria. The duo pushed off the block in 5.22 seconds, breaking the former record set by Meyers Taylor and Lolo Jones last March by three-hundredths, en route to a track record time of 50.52 seconds. The former record, 51.71 seconds, was also set by Meyers Taylor in the March World Cup.
“We still have room in the tank,” she said. “Coming off this week of training and really getting into it, you know, these are my first full-out pushes in awhile, so we’re ready to come out and lay it down tomorrow. We’re going to come out and do the best we can. Lauren pushed us really well today.”
The Americans led by a mere 0.02 seconds over Germany’s Mariama Jamanka and Lisa Buckwitz after the first heat. Jamanka is Germany’s latest breakout star, finishing the World Cup season ranked third overall. This is Jamanka’s Olympic debut.
Jamanka responded in the second heat with a time of 50.72 seconds for a two-run total of 1:41.26, putting pressure on the Americans. Meyers Taylor and Gibbs once again broke the start record, this time pushing a 5.21. Meyers Taylor held onto the lead until the very last interval, falling behind the Germans by just 0.07 seconds with a combined time of 1:41.33.
Greubel Poser and Evans are teaming together in Olympic competition once again after winning the bronze medal in Sochi in 2014. The Americans were just 0.07 seconds off the pace set by their teammates in run one after a start of 5.32 and finish time of 50.59 seconds, third best of the heat. Germans Stephanie Schneider and Annika Drazek trailed Greubel Poser and Gibbs by 0.11 seconds in the first heat, but threw down the third fastest run of the second heat to squeak by the Americans by 0.02 seconds. Schneider and Drazek are currently in third with a total time of 1:41.56, followed by Greubel Poser and Evans in fourth with a 1:41.58.
“We definitely want to be challenging for the medal positions, and as we’ve seen in all the other competitions in general, the order of who’s in the top change a bit,” Greubel Poser said. “We’re not discouraged by this position, we’re really fired up, and we’re really excited to get back on the ice tomorrow and fight for the medals.”
While Schneider will have the night to think about holding onto a medal, Greubel Poser is fired up and eager to chase down more Olympic hardware.
“We’re really confident in our team dynamic and what we bring to the competition, and we’re going to bring it tomorrow, so they better watch out,” Greubel Poser said.
Following Sochi, Evans took two years off from the sport before returning for the 2016-2017 season, just in time to help Greubel Poser win the first overall World Cup title of her career and the 2017 World Championship bronze. Evans is equally as determined to lay it all on the line with Greubel Poser in tomorrow’s medal deciding heats.
“I’m more confident than ever,” Evans said. “We’re meant to fight for it and we’re meant to own it, so this doesn’t worry me the least bit. We work well with the fire under out butts, so I’m excited to go out there tomorrow.”
This season, Greubel Poser has medaled three times on the World Cup tour, including gold in the Park City, Utah leg. She earned her second Olympic team berth this year after finishing the 2017-2018 season ranked fourth overall, and competes in these Winter Games with an added motivation.
Greubel Poser’s younger sister Elizabeth was adopted from South Korea nearly 17 years ago. Elizabeth, now 17, was in the stands tonight — returning to her birth country for the first time since she was adopted — watching her sister race.
“This is such a special connection, one that I never thought I’d have in my sport career,” Greubel Poser said over the summer. “To be able to connect my sport with my family is why this is really special.”
Evans, meanwhile, has emerged as one of the best U.S. brakemen in recent years. She comes from a sports family, her brother played in the NFL and her cousin was a Major League Baseball player. Before bobsledding, Evans was a standout track and field athlete at the University of Illinois.
While Canadian Kaillie Humphries currently sits in fifth place and 0.04 seconds out of the medals, she can’t be counted out just yet. Humphries is seeking her third consecutive Olympic gold medal. She was a convincing 0.85 seconds ahead at the 2010 Vancouver Games to earn her first Olympic victory. Meyers Taylor was racing as a brakeman with Erin Pac to earn the first medal of her career, a bronze. Meyers Taylor switched to the front seat heading into the 2014 Sochi Games, and led for the first three heats, but was overtaken by Humphries by a mere 0.10 seconds in the fourth and final heat. Humphries was golden again, while Meyers Taylor added silver to her growing list of career accomplishments.
“Four years ago, I was just trying to hold onto a lead,” Meyers Taylor said. “Tomorrow, I’m just going to go and attack the track. No matter what happens, I’m going to go down swinging. That’s all you can do in this sport.”
The U.S. is the only nation to medal in every women’s bobsled Olympic event since the discipline made its debut at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. Jill Bakken and Vonetta Flowers won the inaugural women’s bobsled race in 2002, and Flowers became the first African-American ever to win a gold medal at the Winter Games. Shauna Rohbock and Valerie Fleming continued the medal tradition by winning silver at the 2006 Torino Games, while Pac and Meyers Taylor claimed the bronze medal in 2010. Meyers Taylor and Lauryn Williams’ silver and Greubel Poser and Evans’ bronze medals in 2014 were the fourth and fifth Olympic medals earned by the U.S. women to date. Williams joined an exclusive club of only four other athletes to win medals in both the Winter and Summer Games, and the first American woman to accomplish the feat.
The third and fourth race heats will take place tomorrow night at 8:40 p.m. local time. For media inquiries, please contact Amanda Bird, USABS Marketing & Communications Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at (518) 354-2250.
Results from heats 1 & 2:
1. Mariama Jamanka and Lisa Buckwitz (GER) 1:41.26 (50.54, 50.72);
2. Elana Meyers Taylor and Lauren Gibbs (USA) 1:41.33 (50.52, 50.81);
3. Stephanie Schneider and Annika Drazek (GER) 1:41.56 (50.63, 50.93);
4. Jamie Greubel Poser and Aja Evan (USA) 1:41.58 (50.59, 50.99);