Feb 19, 2014 11:54 PM by Greg Smith
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- Elana Meyers has spent the past four years leading the U.S. women's bobsled team. When it comes to recruiting new athletes, raising funds or memorizing lines on a new track, Meyers can always be found at the head of the pack, guiding her teammates. Meyers saw her four years of hard work pay off Wednesday night at the Sanki Sliding Center when the United States earned silver and bronze at the Sochi Games, marking the first time the U.S. has landed two women's bobsleds on an Olympic podium.
Meyers, helped by strong pushes from three-time track & field Olympian Lauryn Williams, claimed silver in 3:50.71, while teammates Jamie Greubel and Aja Evans took the bronze in 3:51.61. Defending Olympic champions Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse of Canada won gold in 3:50.61.
Meyers was in gold-medal position after the first two heats Tuesday, leading Humphries by 0.23 of a second. After a few mistakes in the third heat, Meyers' lead dropped down to 0.11 of a second and by the end of the fourth heat the Canadians had advanced far enough ahead to win gold by 0.10 of a second.
"The last run out of curve two kind of bit us a little, cost us our speed and it just slipped away. Any time you're that close and you can taste it and you don't come down with the result, it hurts a little bit," Meyers said on her flirt with gold. "At the end of the day, those mistakes cost us, but Lauryn pushed her heart out, I fought every single second of our run...
"We gave everything we had, we left it all out there and that's really what it's about. It's about going out there and doing everything you can to fight for your country."
While the U.S. made history with two sleds on the podium, Williams also made history by becoming only the second American - and fifth athlete of any nation - to medal at both the summer and winter editions of the Olympic Games. Before earning silver in bobsled, Williams' resume included a silver in the 100-meter from the Athens 2004 Olympic Games and gold in the 4x100-meter at the London 2012 Games.
"I didn't come here to make history; I came here to help Team USA," Williams said after her first Olympic bobsled race. "It's really cool to be here tonight to have pushed as hard as I could for (Elana) and to be on the podium. I feel like I did the best I could to help Team USA and I feel like (Elana's) excited about her performance. It wasn't about history for me."
Williams began her bobsled journey in August after two-time track Olympian Lolo Jones convinced her to try the sport. Jones, who also made the six-member team for Sochi and finished 11th with pilot Jazmine Fenlator in 3:53.97, began the sport one year prior after being recruited by Meyers. Jones and Williams are the ninth and 10th U.S. athletes to compete at both the summer and winter Olympic Games.
Fenlator and Jones were the first ones to congratulate their Olympic medalist teammates as they reached the finish.
"I felt like I was in the presence of Jesse Owens when I watched Lauryn Williams come out of that sled," Jones said when asked about Williams' feat. "I was so emotionally choked up. She just broke history, I can't believe it. It's just awesome. This was a good day for USA bobsled; this was historic. I can't wait to celebrate with them."
Meyers, Greubel and Fenlator all switched from the brakeman position to the driver's seat following the Vancouver Games. While Meyers was on the 2010 Olympic Team and earned bronze with driver Erin Pac, Greubel and Fenlator both missed the team and were cherishing every moment of their first Olympic experience in Sochi.
"I'm happy this was my first Olympic experience, it's definitely been worth waiting for," Greubel said after winning her bronze medal. "I had to sacrifice a lot to get to this point and a couple times in the past six years I had to ask myself how bad I really wanted it and was it worth it to go through the training, go through the financial struggles, the traveling, everything. I can tell you now that it's definitely been worth it."
Meyers, Williams, Greubel and Evans continued a strong tradition of U.S. history in women's bobsled. The U.S. is the only nation to medal at all four Olympic Winter Games since the event's Olympic debut in Salt Lake City 12 years ago. Jill Bakken and Vonetta Flowers won gold on home soil in 2002, and Shauna Rohbock and Valerie Fleming continued the tradition by earning silver in 2006. Four years ago, Meyers pushed driver Erin Pac to bronze at the Vancouver Games.
After upgrading to silver in Sochi, Meyers is already thinking about her natural Olympic medal progression and what lies ahead in 2018.
"I have to go back and train even harder for Pyeongchang. Kaillie got the best of me now, but we'll see in four years."