Athlete origins: Elana Meyers, bobsled
Since winning a bronze medal in Vancouver as a brakeman, Elana Meyers has spent the past four years as a pilot. About to make her Olympic debut as a driver, the Georgia-raised former softball player talked about her love for the sport of bobsled.
NBC: What do you like so much about bobsledding?
Meyers: I grew up in a rough and tough atmosphere in the softball field. Softball's a blue collar sport. So I grew up half my life with red clay -- Georgia red clay all over me all the time. It was great. I loved it. I loved every minute of it, dirt in my hair, everything like that. And then I came into the world of bobsled where it's a whole different kind of dirty.
We're mini mechanics on a sled. I get my hands greased up all the time -- calloused from shining our blades, from -- doing different sled work, all that kind of stuff. So it's still a blue collar sport. Granted it was a drastic weather change. I don't take well to the cold at all. But -- I learned to love the cold and I learned to deal with it-- because I loved the sport. Ever since I got into bobsled, ever since I got to be around these sleds working on them I was like, "This is what I want to do, this is what I was meant to do."
Embedded owg_slideshow: Model Olympian: Elana Meyers, bobsled
NBC: How does someone from a warm, nice climate in Georgia end up racing in Europe in a bobsled?
Meyers: Basically you have an Olympic dream. I grew up and from the age of nine, I wanted to be an Olympian, and I was going to do whatever it takes to get there. I thought it would be in softball so I played softball collegiately, played a year professionally, and had an opportunity to try out with the Olympic team but totally crashed and burned in that tryout so I needed a different opportunity if I was going to be an Olympian. So in 2002, my parents had seen bobsled on TV. They saw Vonetta Flowers win their medal and they were like, "You should try this." At the time I brushed it off. I said, "I'm going to the Olympics in softball. I don't need this."
So after that moment, I continued to play softball, and then in 2007 when I retired they said, "Well, why don't you give bobsled a try?" And I was said, "Okay, fine. I still want to go to the Olympics, I'm still young enough," so I emailed the coach and two weeks later they invited me up to Lake Placid, New York, and I haven't left.
NBC: What do you think it was about the Olympics that spoke to you so much? What planted the seed and why did you so much want to be an Olympian?
Meyers: One of the things about the Olympics is just the ability to represent your country. My dad was a marine so being able to represent my country, maybe not on the battlefield but in another forum, was just such an awesome experience and such a wonderful thing to me. To be able to represent a country and a sport you love, and a sport that you could dedicate your whole life to and that you're so passionate about was just the coolest thing to me. Being able to compete against Germans and Italians and all these different nations was just such an amazing feature to me. I used to watch the Opening Ceremony and particularly the Sydney [Opening Ceremony]. I just watched it at home in my living room and just cried because it was such an amazing and overwhelming thing to be able to see.
Embedded video_content_type: Team USA bobsled recruits the best
NBC: So obviously you didn't just participate in Vancouver, you won a medal. What was it like when you crossed the finish line and knew you won a medal?
Meyers: So when we first crossed the finish line, I didn't know what happened. My pilot was screaming. I thought something was wrong. I was like, "What is going on?" I couldn't see the scoreboard because there were so many fans hanging over the railing, I couldn't see anything, so I didn't know what was going on. So finally I realized my pilot [Erin Pac] is celebrating but I still don't know what place we have, but at that point it really doesn't matter anyways but to be able to come away in your first Olympics was such an amazing accomplishment and such a great feeling. I just remember being so excited, and everything just was such a blur.
It was one of those moments that I was actually in the moment. I don't remember thinking or feeling much at that moment because everything was so overwhelming, everything was so incredible. I had so much joy that I was just experiencing the whole thing. I remember feeling like I was in one of my video games. You know, I play the Olympic video games every so often but I remember feeling like I was in one of those video games and how incredible it actually felt. It was an amazing moment.
NBC: What are your expectations for your first Olympics as a driver?
Meyers: I definitely want to go in and try my best to win a gold medal but I can't only focus on winning gold. The goal is to go in and have the best four runs of my life. If I could put four runs together I'm going to be very hard to beat, but more importantly if I put four runs together, I'm going to walk off the ice proud and with my head held high, whatever the outcome is.
Embedded owg_slideshow: Elana Meyers wins bronze in Vancouver
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