When the six-woman USA Olympic bobsleigh team was announced on 19 January 2014 it included two names more familiar to athletics fans than Winter sports aficionados: Lolo Jones and Lauryn Williams. Like former hurdler Jones, Williams had converted from the track, having competed as a sprinter for Team USA at three editions of the Summer Games in 2004, 2008 and 2012.
She enjoyed a string of successes as a track athlete, including a silver medal in the 100m at Athens 2004, two golds in the 100m and 4x100m relay at the 2005 IAAF World Championships in Helsinki (FIN), and another 4x100m gold at the Worlds in Osaka (JPN) in 2007. Five years later came her crowning glory on the track when she helped Team USA win Olympic gold in the 4x100m relay at London 2012.
Williams describes what happened next: “In July 2013, a nagging injury left me unable to finish what was likely to be my final track season. I returned to the states feeling dejected. But a fortuitous conversation with Lolo Jones, a hurdler known for joining the bobsled ranks in the midst of her track career, changed my mood.
“After our conversation, my interest was piqued, and with stage 1 of the trials looming, I decided to hop on a plane to Calgary and give bobsledding a try. With just one training session under my belt and an injured leg, I managed to finish third in the Push Championships and my bobsled adventure began.”
An exciting new chapter
That adventure certainly got off to an impressive start for the former sprinter, who had recorded a personal best of 10.88 in the 100m and was now channelling all of her explosive power and pace into her new role as brakewoman.
Williams competed in her first FIBT World Cup event on 7 December 2013 in Park City (USA), where she teamed up with pilot Jazmine Fenlator. The pair finished joint second with Greubel/Jones, behind Meyers/Evans to ensure an all-American podium.
On 14 December in Lake Placid (USA), Williams was brakewoman for Elana Meyers, who took second place behind the Canadian bob piloted by Kaillie Humphries. And on 19 January, the day the USA team was announced, Williams was in action again in Igls (AUT), this time with Jamie Greubel, and she enjoyed her first World Cup victory. A delighted Greubel was in no doubt as to the foundations of their success. “Thanks to Lauryn who gave me such a good start!” declared the pilot as the pair stood on top of the podium.
Williams competed in four World Cup events in the 2013-2014 season, pushing behind all three of the USA pilots who will feature at Sochi, and sharing the podium with each one of them!
Only eight American athletes had ever competed in the Summer and Winter Games before Jones and Williams, and only one of them, Edward Eagan, managed to win gold in both: boxing in 1920 and bobsleigh in 1932. In fact, Eagan remains the only athlete in history to achieve a Summer-Winter golden double.
The USA has featured on the podium ever since the two-women bobsleigh event was introduced to the Olympic Winter programme, winning gold in 2002, silver in 2006 and bronze in 2010.
Williams will be hoping she can help maintain that proud tradition, take her personal Olympic medal tally to three, and maybe even emulate Eagan’s unique double.
“I will be representing the USA after only six months in this sport,” she reflects. “I can’t tell the future, but I’m extremely enthused about this journey and the opportunity to make the most of another chapter in the exciting story that is my life.”
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