Bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor is one of only two mothers competing at the 2022 Winter Olympics. The 37-year-old, four-time Olympian arrived with one major goal in mind: to show other elite athletes that they could have children and return to compete at the highest level.
Meyers Taylor did just that on Sunday, when she won silver in the women’s monobob event. It's her fourth career medal, making her one of the most decorated Olympic bobsledders in U.S. history.
“Today I will tell Nico that his mom fought hard, and she did everything she could to bring this medal home to him,” Meyers Taylor said after her race.
The Georgia native had hoped to celebrate a medal win with her son on the podium. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the celebration had to wait.
“This is definitely the most difficult medal I've ever earned,” Meyers Taylor said. “It's definitely been the hardest journey to get here. I am so excited to take this medal back to my son at the hotel.”
She did finally get to bring her medal back to Nico, a moment she shared on social media.
While an Olympic veteran, this is Meyers Taylor’s first Games with a child in tow. Her son Nico was born just a month before the pandemic hit. Since she is still breastfeeding, Meyers Taylor was allowed to bring him to the Games. What's more, husband Nic Taylor is an alternate on the U.S. men’s bobsled team. Unlike many, Meyers Taylor has family to support her during one of the most restricted sporting events in history.
Competing at the highest level while balancing mom duties isn’t just for these Games. This past World Cup season Meyers Taylor brought Nico on tour. Why?
I don’t want any woman to have to choose between a family and having an athletic career.
In an exclusive interview with NBCOlympics.com before she competed, Meyers Taylor opened up about her mission as an athlete.
“In my opinion, we will really reach equity in sports when a woman can come back from having a baby and completely fail, and fall on her face – and that’s completely OK,” she said. While some sports stars have returned after giving birth, they often face added pressure from the media and fans to either perform up to previous expectations or retire.
The bobsledder thinks the only way to change misconceptions of mothers in sport is to lead by example. “Hopefully by me competing, we’re starting to show that ... mothers can go after their dreams and still figure out how to make it work, while being a mother as well. I don’t want you to be limited based off your desire to have a family.”
She recognizes the various challenges of raising a child while competing in Altenberg one weekend, and Sigulda the next. One, it's incredibly expensive. Also, it's difficult to coordinate family members' schedules to ensure Nico has the proper supervision.
"I know it’s not realistic for all athletes," Meyers Taylor said. "I just want women to have the option. I want them to be able to choose and not be limited by whatever people think ... Just by getting here, we’re showing it’s possible to perform at a high level and be a mother.
When asked the most important lesson her mother taught her, that she’d like to teach Nico, the four-time Olympian responded: "The world is going to tell you that you can’t, and you have to find a way to say you can, anyways."
Meyers Taylor has found a way to compete when many said it was impossible. Especially during the pandemic, when flying became such a difficult endeavor, it would have been easier to leave Nico at home and focus on training. But the current World Cup champion has remained steady in her quest to have Nico by her side. She's paid for family members to fly to events so Nico could receive proper care while she trained and competed.
Ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics, Meyers Taylor was favored to win gold in the inaugural monobob event. The bobsledder had won a world-best four monobob World Cup events in the 2021-22 season before the Olympics. She tried not to focus on the outcome. Instead, she was simply proud that women could compete in a second bobsled discipline – another step forward in the fight for equity.
But her world was turned upside down when she tested positive for COVID-19 shortly after her arrival (and this interview). She spent a week isolated in a hotel, unable to train properly or see her son.
However, the three-time Olympic medalist didn’t let quarantine slow her down. Her team scrambled to find equipment and she trained in her room while watching a lot of video to make up for her isolated status.
Meyers Taylor is known for her fast starts on the track. However, her time in quarantine led to questions as to whether she had lost strength. Ultimately, when race day arrived, Meyers Taylor submitted some of the field's fastest starts. She sat in fourth place after the first two runs, just 0.10 seconds behind third.
“Not too bad for a 37-year-old mom,” she said to media outlets at the time. “I’m the oldest driver in the competition, and the only one coming off a pregnancy, so I’m very excited about the starts. I knew with the lack of runs and with some of my struggles with monobob, I needed the start.”
Meyers Taylor entered Day 2 of competition with a plan. She was going to leave it all out on the track, with nothing to lose. Just competing at the Olympics was a win.
“For me, the difference between fourth and 20th place wasn't going to make a difference,” she said. “So all I had to do was lay it on the line, and that's exactly what I did. I just went out there, enjoyed the heck out of this race, and fortunately it paid off.”
Meyers Taylor remained consistent with her final runs. After Heat 3, she moved up to third. Heat 4 saw the bobsledder's best run of the competition, 1:05.11, ensuring at least a bronze medal. Canada’s Christine de Bruin struggled through a subpar run, allowing Meyers Taylor to claim silver behind teammate Kaillie Humphries.
The medal is Meyers Taylor's fourth; only Humphries has as many. At 37 and 127 days, Meyers Taylor also became the oldest American woman to ever win a medal at the Winter Olympics.
These records aren’t something Meyers Taylor takes lightly. She’s proud of the example and path she sets.
“I feel like these great moments in women’s sports history keep coinciding with some of my big moments,” she told NBCOlympics.com, mentioning that this year marks 50 years since the passage of Title IX. “It just goes to show you how impactful and how meaningful the history is as female athletes … and what the legacy is for us to be able to do what we do.”
For Meyers Taylor, “It’s a pretty cool legacy to be a part of.”
Meyers Taylor isn’t finished competing at the Games. The two-woman bobsled event begins on Friday Feb. 18 at 7:00 a.m. ET., providing her with another opportunity to add to her legacy.
However, for Meyers Taylor, it’s also another opportunity to set an example for the equity she champions. If she can compete on the biggest stage in sports, what's to stop any other mother from doing the same?