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Winter Olympics: Nearly Golden for U.S. Women’s Bobsled, But Still Historic

Silver medalists Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams, of the United States, celebrate on the podium during the medal ceremony for the women’s bobsleigh Thursday at the Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia. (Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

By Ryan Howe | BSU at the Games

Elana Meyers had hoped to be in the Summer Olympics playing softball.

Instead, the former Mid Michigan Ice softball player from Douglasville, Ga., was at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, seeking a slide toward greatness. She nabbed it, too.

Meyers and Lauryn Williams, of Miami, slid to a silver medal finish in the two-women bobsled competition, just ahead of U.S. teammates Aja Evans, of Chicago, and Jamie Greubel, of Newtown, Pa., and just behind Canadians Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse a mere 0.1 second back.

That gave both Meyers and Williams medals in consecutive Olympics, an impressive feat to go home with as they march into the Closing Ceremonies for the Sochi Winter Olympics tonight.

Williams joined an exclusive club of only four other athletes to win medals in both Winter and Summer Games, and the first American woman to accomplish the feat. She was a member of the gold medal winning 4-by-100-meter women’s relay at the London Summer Olympics in 2012. Meanwhile, Meyers won her second straight medal in two-woman bobsled, having teamed to win bronze at the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010.

“I fought every single second down the track and Lauryn really dug it out at the start,” Meyers said Thursday after claiming the silver medal with Williams. “We gave everything we had and left it all out there.”

“That’s really what it’s about, it’s about going out there and giving everything you can to fight for your country. We couldn’t be happier with that, and hopefully America will forgive me for letting gold slip away.”

Her opportunities to play softball in the Summer Olympics slipped away when the sport was dropped from the 2008 Games after she had failed to make the U.S. team for the 2004 Summer Olympics.

Not long after the sport was dropped, Meyers decided to leave the Mid Michigan Ice and retire from softball.

“It had nothing to do with the fact that it was dropped from the Olympics,” Meyers said.

“I wouldn’t give up on something I love so much over something so trivial. It was just time to move on.”

While she went back to college to work her way to medical school, she couldn’t let go of that Olympic dream. Her parents who suggested giving the winter sport bobsled a try.

“I always thought I would make it to the Olympics for a summer sport, something warm, something more related to Atlanta, but I was willing to try out new things,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting much going into it.”

In 2007, Meyers took her first run on the ice, an experience she described as being shot down the mountain in a loud bullet. The transition from a summer sport to a winter one wasn’t that tough once she got used to speeding down the ice at speeds up to 90 mph.

Women’s bobsled is a two-person sport and consists of a driver and a brakeman. The driver sits in the front of the sled and steers it down around the turns and curves of the mountain. The brakeman sits in the back and controls the speed of the sled so the team doesn’t crash.

Meyers started out as a brakeman. She trained everyday, changing her diet and workout routine to bulk up strength and speed.

In 2010, Meyers finally achieved the goal she made for herself at age 9: She made the 2010 U.S. Bobsled Team. Erin Pac and Meyers would be one of three teams representing the U.S. in Vancouver.

While there, Pac and Meyers didn’t get to see much of the Games. Instead they practiced and stayed focus with one thing on their mind—bringing home a medal.

“We were in our own little world,” Pac said. “We were determined. Bobsled was one of the last sports, so we spent most of the time just shut away from the village and other competitors. Even after our race, we only had maybe a day to actually go out and enjoy it.”

But the hard work paid off as the team returned to the States with a bronze medal around their necks.

“I saw our time before Elana did as we came down the track and knew that we had placed,” Pac said. “I was already celebrating before we had fully stopped. It really is something that bonds two people. Working so hard together to reach something so huge. I couldn’t have asked for a better teammate. Elana is a great competitor, and she deserves everything she gets.”

Once the team returned home, Meyers shifted gears and started training to be a driver. An already accomplished brakeman, she wanted to keep competing in bobsled, and drivers have more of a shelf life than brakemen.

“It’s a lot of pressure to be in so much control, and the level of trust the brakeman has to put in me is something I’ve learned to deal with,” Meyers said. “Before, I had three seconds of air time pushing the sled at the beginning. Now, all the eyes are on me all the way down the track. The pressure is unreal this time around.”

The U.S. is the only nation to medal in every women’s bobsled Olympic event since the discipline made its debut at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002. Meyers and Pac helped continue that run with the only U.S. medal in Vancouver.

“I didn’t come here to make history,” Williams said of combining with Meyers. “I came here to help Team USA, and I feel like I did the best I could. I’m just happy to be here, and it wasn’t about history for me.”

Meyers and Williams were the team to beat off the top in Sochi, but a few mistakes down the course chipped away at their time. Their USA-1 bobsled crossed the finish in a two-run combined time of 3 minutes, 50.71 seconds, 0.1 second behind the Canadians. Meyers looked disappointed for a split second before she was mobbed at the finish by her teammates in celebration.

“What an incredible honor it is to be a part of two of those moments,” Meyers said of earning medals in two straight Winter Olympics. “I didn’t realize that, and it’s amazing.

“I think it says a lot about what our women’s team has done to continue to push through and succeed in this sport, and it feels incredible knowing I contributed.”

100.5 The River, 97.9 WGRD , Channel 95.7, Classic Hits 98.7 WFGR and 1410 AM The Touch are partnering with BSU at the Games to bring you full Winter Olympics coverage! Follow BSU at the Games on Twitter and Facebook.

Townsquare Media Group‘s Rick Martinez and the USA Bobsled & Skeleton Federation‘s Amanda Bird contributed to this report.

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