US bobsleigh’s golden all-rounder
A bronze medallist as brakewoman to Erin Pac at Vancouver 2010, Elana Meyers Taylor then turned her hand to driving and came close to Olympic gold in the two-woman bob with Lauryn Williams at Sochi 2014 and with Lauren Gibbs at PyeongChang 2018. She is, along with Canada’s Kaillie Humphries, the only triple Olympic medallist in the event.
So near yet so far
The Sochi 2014 two-woman bobsleigh competition saw Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse leave it very late in defending the title they had won four years earlier in Vancouver, the Canadians clinching a second consecutive gold with their very last descent. In doing so, the defending champions dashed the hopes of their American counterparts, Elana Meyers and former Olympic and world sprint champion Lauryn Williams, who had led the competition from the opening run, when they set a new track record of 57.26.
Meyers and Williams also went quickest in the second run (57.63), and held a lead of 0.11 seconds over the Canadians heading into the fourth and final descent. That advantage vanished, however, as Humphries and Moyse clung on to their title, leaving Meyers to collect a silver to go with the bronze she had won as a brakewoman to Erin Pac at Vancouver 2010. “It hurts a little bit. But at the end of the day I’m super relieved with this medal,” Meyers said at the time. “I have to deal with this to go back and train even harder for PyeongChang 2018.”
A passion for her sport
Meyers took up bobsleigh in 2007, having earlier excelled in softball in her college years, and also earned two rugby sevens caps for her country. She found her calling on ice, however, and threw all her energies into her new sport.
A powerful athlete, she started out as a brakewoman, winning a silver with Shauna Rohbock at the 2009 FIBT World Championships and then going on to collect that Olympic bronze with Pac a year later. She turned to driving after the Vancouver Games, and, with Katie Eberling behind her, secured a world championship silver in Humphries’ wake in 2013. Then came that incredible denouement at Sochi 2014, which was followed a few weeks later by her marriage to former US bobsleigh team-mate-turned-coach Nicholas Taylor.
A first for USA women’s bobsleighing
The newlywed Meyers Taylor then enjoyed sustained World Cup and World Championship success with a series of partners behind her. As well as topping the 2014/15 ISBF World Cup standings, she won the two-woman bob world title with Cherelle Garrett in Winterberg (GER) in February 2015, edging three German crews to become the first American woman to win gold in the event.
A repeat success
Her world title triumph was just the start for Meyers Taylor, who proved unstoppable during the 2016/17 season. That year she had three different athletes by the name of Jones pushing her at various times during the campaign: Briauna, Kehri, and former track and field star Lolo.
It was with Kehri Jones that the USA driver retained her world title in Königsee (GER) in February 2017, beating Humphries by 0.03 seconds over the four runs. In collecting a medal for the fifth World Championships running, Meyers Taylor also scored a fifth straight victory, having won four World Cup events from mid-January.
Looking back on her career ahead of her third Olympic appearance at PyeongChang 2018, Meyers Taylor said winning bronze at Vancouver 2010 was her proudest moment up to that point: “My first Games and my first medal – it’s something I’ll never be able to repeat.”
The silver that followed in Sochi was a major source of motivation, however, as she prepared to go one better by drawing on her tried and trusted recipe for success: “Find your passion, set a goal, go to work, evaluate, reassess and repeat”.
In the eight World Cup events leading up to PyeongChang 2018, Meyers Taylor finished on virtually every podium with four different brakewomen, among them Lauren Gibbs, who would partner her in the Republic of Korea.
Another near miss
When the fight for gold in the fifth Olympic two-woman bobsleigh competition got under way, Meyers Taylor and Gibbs established a 0.02-second lead over Germany’s Mariama Jamanka and Lisa Buckwitz after the first run, only to then find themselves 0.07 seconds behind the Germans at the end of the second.
Meyers Taylor reduced the gap on Jamanka by three hundredths of a second in run three to set up a heart-stopping finale, in which the Americans jumped back into the lead with a time of 50.73, with just the Germans to come.
Jamanka stretched her lead on the top half of the course only for the gap to shrink to as little as 0.03 seconds at one stage. In hitting a track record top speed of 137.5kmh. However, the German stopped the clock 0.07 seconds ahead of the American, with Humphries and brakewoman Phylicia George taking the bronze.
Despite picking up another silver, Meyers Taylor was far from being as despondent as she had been four years earlier: “In Sochi I lost the gold but here I won the silver. I’m very proud. I did everything I could have asked of myself, which was to go for it and do my best. I know that’s what I did.
“You need a good push to succeed and Lauren was up to the job this week,” continued Meyers Taylor. “I made a few mistakes and we missed out on the gold. I gave it my all, though, and I’m satisfied.”
With her family and friends chanting “Four more years! Four more years!” in the stands, the American confirmed that she had no intention of retiring just yet: “I want to carry on driving for as long as I can. I also want to have a child, and we’ll see if we can give the three-man bob a go! But I do want to continue with my career. I love my sport so much and I can’t imagine giving it up.”