HOPING THIRD TIME IS CHARM IN QUEST FOR GOLD
Douglasville native Elana Meyers-Taylor will be competing in her third Winter Olympics as the pilot of one of the two-man Team USA bobsleds this month. News & Views Publisher Tim Collins had a chance to speak with her on January 8th and ask her about the upcoming games and her sport.
Tim: How are you?
Elana: I’m good, how are you?
Tim: This is my third time talking to you. I think I have talked to you about each Olympics (2010 and 2014).
Tim: So, this year the Olympics is in South Korea, is that right?
Tim: Is this a new facility for bobsled or is this one you have been to before?
Elana: Well, we had an opportunity to race there last year, but it was built specifically for these Olympics. I set a track record there, so I was the fastest sled down the hill. And the fastest at the start, but unfortunately I only finished second in the race.
Elana: So, I am going out there to fight for the Gold Medal this time around.
Tim: Is that your goal for 2018?
Elana: I think when you have a Bronze and Silver Medal already, it helps to have a goal for the Gold Medal. And that’s what everybody goes to the Olympics for, so of course, that’s my goal. But it’s really more about the performance. I wasn’t really happy with my performance in Sochi, so my goal is to go out there and put together four great runs and then let the results take care of themselves, unlike the past two Olympics where it’s been all about the medals. I’m really focused on this performance now and enjoying it too. There’s a chance this could be my last Olympics. I hope it’s not, but I really want to make sure to enjoy it.
Tim: That was one of my questions. Do you feel like you will come back again or will this be your last one? Or will it depend on how you perform in the future?
Elana: No, I think it’s more so how my body feels. I’ve been doing bobsled for about 11 years now and I want to continue doing it as long as I can, but at the end of the day, all athletes reach a point where their body goes and they can’t do it anymore. I’m hoping that point isn’t anytime soon, but you just never know. I am going to bobsled as long as the good Lord allows me to and when he says it’s time to go, I’m going to retire.
Tim: Yeah, that was another question I had. Once you get out of bobsledding, what are you planning to do. Do you have some ideas?
Elana: I mean the end goal is to be the CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee, but I realize professionally, that I've got some baby steps that I need to go through before I get that. So, I am looking forward to working and professional experience. I have a MBA, just haven’t used it much. I need to see what opportunities are out there in the business world.
Tim: I am sure you will do well at whatever you do, because I can see you are driven. You have to be driven to be a professional athlete.
Elana: Yeah, of course. I think I am really looking forward to spending more time with my family and maybe starting a family of my own. That will be my number one priority, once I retire from bobsled, or maybe during my bobsled career, who knows?
Tim: That sounds really nice. Do you know what events you’ll be competing in and what the dates are? Has that been established yet?
Elana: Just the two-man; it’s the 20th and 21st. The team officially gets announced this weekend.
Tim: Oh, neat. How do they select the team? Is it based on how the different athletes do during the regular season?
Elana: Yes. So, as a driver, I race in the seven races and earn points for each of those races. Then, it will be based off of those points that qualify me. There is a committee who chooses my partner. I don’t choose that.
Tim: So, you don’t know who your partner will be yet then?
Note - The two Bobsled teams were announced on January 13th. The pilots are Elana Meyers Taylor (Douglasville, Ga.) and Jamie Greubel Poser (Newtown, Pa.) Lauren Gibbs (Los Angeles, Calif.) earned her spot in the back of Meyers Taylor’s sled, while 2014 Olympic bronze medal teammates Greubel Poser and Aja Evans(Chicago, Ill.) will once again be paired together for the 2018 Oympics in PyeongChang.
Tim: Have you been competing with the same partner all season long this year?
Elana: No, we have been rotating through trying to test out some different things and see where they’re at. It makes the season a lot harder, when you're switching brakemen every weekend. It doesn’t give me much consistency, but at the same time our end game is to win a Gold Medal in PyeongChang. So, we have got to do, what we have got to do, and really see who is the fastest brakemen.
Tim: How did your season go this year?
Elana: So far, it's had its ups and downs. I haven’t won a race. I've medaled in five of the six races so far but haven’t gotten that Gold Medal yet. But at the same time we are testing out a lot of different things; trying different brakemen, trying different equipment, with the end goal of PyeongChang in mind.
Note - Five days after this interview Elana and Lolo Jones finished in first place at the World Cup Race in San Moritz.
Tim: Yeah, definitely. Who do you see as some of the other strong teams in bobsled?
Elana: At first, you just have to start within the U.S. My teammate Jamie Greubel Poser is a really tough competitor and a Bronze Medalist from Sochi. She competes tough with me every single day, so it will be a battle in PyeongChang. I think the overwhelming favorite is Kaillie Humphries, who is a two-time defending Olympic Champion from Canada. You've always got to watch out for her. The Germans have a young driver, Stephanie Schneider who is up and coming. She has fast starts and good equipment, so she’s going to bring pretty big game to the Olympics as well.
Tim: In terms of the sled itself, is there someone dedicated to working on the sled ? Or do you guys work on your own sled to try to make it as fast as possible?
Elana: We work on our own sleds, but we also have a mechanic. Our mechanic, Richard Laubenstein, he’s from Penske Racing and he’s done a great job with us and getting our sleds together. He does a lot of the aerodynamic work, but the day-to-day maintenance work is largely on the athletes.
Tim: You have been doing this so long. What do you think are some of the necessary characteristics to be an elite bobsledder; mentally and physically, etc.?
Elana: I think the one thing is power - speed and power. I mean you have to get the sled off the line as fast as possible, in order to give yourself time. From my driving aspect, you have to be adaptable, by making adjustments and doing them quickly. You also have to be focused and driven in order to put in the day to day work, to be one of the best bobsledders in the world. It’s not easy, not an easy life, but I love what I do and love every moment of what goes into it.
Tim: Before a big race, do you still feel butterflies or nerves? Or has it just gotten to a point where it’s routine and you're just so focused?
Elana: I always feel nervous before a race. I think nervousness is a good thing, it’s excitement. I’m excited about what’s about to happen, so I try to use my nervous energy to fuel my performance and take it from there. As a bobsledder, I think you can’t help to be nervous all the time. It’s still bobsledding and your traveling down a track at 90 mph and anything can happen at any time, so you just never know. One minute you’re world champion, the next minute you’re crashing. It’s one of those sports where you always have to be on your toes.
Tim: I think anytime I am going 90 mph doing anything, I’d be nervous. I remember at one point, you had mentioned trying to get involved with the Summer Olympics in some capacity. Did you ever do anything with that?
Elana: I played two tournaments with the U.S. Women's Sevens Team and because I had a concussion in bobsled, I had to give up rugby. I couldn’t do bobsled and rugby at the same time. So, I wasn’t really able to go forward, but was fortunate enough to go down to Rio last year and experience the games live and first-hand. That was a really cool experience. Me and my husband went down with the U.S. Olympic Committee to see it, that was really awesome.
Tim: That’s a neat place to go. So, I saw you on a Comcast commercial the other day. How did that come about? Are they one of the sponsors of your sled?
Elana: So, Comcast is one of my personal sponsors, along with Deloitte, Proctor & Gamble, 24-Hour Fitness, and Bridgestone Tires. Also, Coca-Cola, which is great to have since it’s an Atlanta company. They all are also sponsors of the U.S. Olympic Committee and each of them usually picks some athletes to represent for the games, so fortunately they picked me.
Tim: That is awesome! I know that bobsledding is really an expensive sport. Has that has made a big difference in having some really good sponsors like that?
Elana: I think every penny counts, because of the expense of the sport and how expensive the equipment is, so every penny helps towards training and competing. So, it’s definitely been a blessing.
Tim: How much does a bobsled cost? I know you can’t probably can’t go out and buy one, so how much are they to build?
Elana: Depending on what type of bobsled. I think our bobsled is a BMW bobsled, which you can’t buy. It’s estimated at $250,000.
Tim: Wow, that’s amazing.
Elana: Yeah, with the research and technology that goes into it.
Tim: So, you start out with a BMW bobsled, are there things that your mechanic or you guys can do to make it even faster? Are there any regulations in the bobsled industry about what you can do to a sled to make it faster?
Elana: Yes, there are very strict regulations about what you can do. We are always working to push the line and we are always working to make the sleds faster, so it’s one of those types of things. Also, the runners, which are blades, come in different sizes and shapes. We have to play around with those to see which is the fastest and it changes for different ice conditions. It might change with different brakemen, because of what they weigh, all kinds of factors go into it. So, it’s a very technologically advanced sport.
Tim: Wow, I didn’t realize that. It’s not just getting on a sled and going as fast as you can. Do you have a webpage or a Facebook page, where people can follow you, if they want to keep up with what you’re doing?
Elana: Yes, I have a Facebook page; Elana Meyers Taylor. My website is elanameyersusa.com and my Twitter is EAMSLIDER. On Instagram, I am Elana Meyers Taylor.
Tim: Do you still live in Douglasville during off-season?
Elana: Umm. I live out of a suitcase currently, but my license still has a Douglasville address, so I guess so.
Tim: Haha. Everybody here is going to be rooting for you and we are excited to see you get out there and do your thing. In the last Olympics, it was razor close, what was the time difference between you and the Gold Medal?
Elana: A tenth of a second.
Tim: Wow. Yeah, and that was after four races?
Elana: Four times down the track.
Tim: So, how far is that in feet? Do you know?
Elana: No. I think that would drive me crazy. A tenth of a second drives me crazy enough. I think figuring it out in feet would go over the top.
Tim: Do you still think about that race, the last Olympics a lot? Is that driving you?
Elana: Of course, you can’t help but think about it, but I have learned a lot of lessons since that race. I have become a better pilot and have won two world championships since that race. Without that race, I wouldn’t be the pilot I am today, and I believe I am a much better pilot than I was four years ago. So, I am excited to see what I can do at these Olympics.
Tim: Yeah, you know you’re due for a Gold; because it’s Bronze, Silver, then Gold.
Elana: Yeah, that’s the only way to do it, right?
Tim: Haha. Thank you so much for giving me the interview! We are going to put your picture on the cover, so I will send you some copies.
Elana: Awesome! Bye, have a good one!
Tim: You too, thanks!