No softball? No problem for former player turned bobsled Olympic hopeful

Elana Meyers started training to be an Olympian when she was 9. Throughout childhood, then college at George Washington University, Meyers poured most of her energy into softball, hoping to make it to the Summer Olympic Games.

In 2004 she tried out and failed.

 Elana Meyers and Aja Evans, Lake Placid, NY World Cup, Dec 2013.  Credit: Pat Hendrick

Elana Meyers and Aja Evans, Lake Placid, NY World Cup, Dec 2013. Credit: Pat Hendrick

“This was the worst tryout anybody has ever had in the history of tryouts,” Meyers said. “I couldn’t get it together, and I don’t know if it was nerves or I just wasn’t ready for the Olympics yet.”

The big dream for a little girl from Atlanta, Ga., was shattered, but she didn’t give up. She decided to start playing professionally and try out again in four more years. She joined the Mid Michigan Ice playing multiple positions and using the practices and games to perfect her craft before trying out again.

She never made the Olympic team. The Summer Olympic Games dropped softball from the roster before the 2008 Games, leaving Meyers without a chance to try out again.

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.”

Meyers went back to school to work her way to medical school. But she couldn’t let go of that Olympic dream. It was 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. “If I make it to the Olympics, millions of people will be watching me. 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.”

Today Meyers and teammate Beatrise Williams took to the ice for the first day of bobsleigh competition in Sochi.

“I’ve had a lot of success these last four years, but I can’t let that get to my head,” Meyers said. “One bad run and everything I worked for would slide from my fingers. That being said, I know that I am ready, that my teammate is ready, and we’re going to have a lot of fun out there.”


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