Elana Meyers-Taylor returned to the United States from Germany a week ago, clearing customs with a singular, even mildly historic victory.
There was no hail-to-the-victor greeting at the airport. Not a single banner hung in the terminal. But then, raised in Douglasville and relocated to Phoenix, Ariz., Meyers-Taylor seems quite determined to make her home in places that have the least amount of connection to what she does better than just about anyone else in the world.
For four runs down an ice chute in Winterberg, Germany, no one was better. “We went faster and faster, probably the four best runs I put together in a race,” she said, days after driving her two-woman bobsled to a world championship.
Meyers-Taylor and brakeman Cherrell Garrett became the first American women to win the World Championship in the bobsled, and the first Americans of any gender to win the title on a non-North American track.
Yes, this is just another one of those metro Atlanta-athlete-wins-a-major-bobsled-title stories that pop up every millennium or so.
What an upside-down world Meyers-Taylor inhabits. Who is going to recognize a bobsled champion when she’s at home in the desert, where she moved with her husband, former bobsledder, now physical trainer Nic Taylor? Yet overseas, on the home track of her sport’s dominant country, she enjoys her greatest star power. Even when she’s practically lapping the Germans on the track.
“We had tons of fans there; everyone was so excited,” she recalled. “The Germans cheer for good racing. In fact, most of my fan mail comes from Germany.”
At Winterberg, she and Garrett were the dominant ones, pairing the best push times of the field with some seamless driving. They set track records with two of their four runs. Their margin of victory, .43 of a second, was by bobsled standards like a two-touchdown victory.
It was the climax of a splendid winter for Meyers-Taylor. A two-time Olympic medalist of lesser hue (bronze 2010, silver 2014), she didn’t begin driving the sled until after the ’10 Games. Still lacking experience compared with some of her German competition, she nonetheless won six of eight World Cup races leading to the World Championship.
Fortunately, she isn’t in this for the glory, else she’d starve. “She is not driven by the trophies she’s won. To a certain extent, she’s competing against herself, focusing on what she does and what she can do better,” said Eddie Meyers, her father. As a former running back at Navy whose military service short-circuited NFL aspirations, he provided an athletic model for his daughter. He today is the Georgia regional president of a financial-services company.
It was Meyers-Taylor’s mother, Jan, who actually first pulled the idea of bobsled from way back in the file of possible athletic outlets.
All her daughter wanted to do was compete at a high level at something. First, it was softball; playing at George Washington University, even hitting a grand slam in her final home game in 2007. She was not going to make the 2008 Olympic softball team, and the sport was then dropped from the Games.
It was around then, with her daughter stubbornly holding onto the need to test herself physically — even as she pursued a master’s degree — that Jan Meyers mentioned: You know, with your power and speed, you might make a pretty good bobsledder. Yeah, this family watches a lot of different sports on TV. It’s a wonder someone at the dinner table didn’t try to sell her on cricket.
She required little convincing. “I was that kid who was always skateboarding head-first down the street. I loved going fast,” Meyers-Taylor said.
American bobsledding is always on the hunt for new talent (it was Meyers-Taylor who helped recruit Garrett to come onboard the sport). Meyers-Taylor made the national team in her first year (2007) and had the drive to drive the sled from Day 1. But she had to pay her dues in the backseat first.
After the Vancouver Games, she got the chance to drive, as teams increasingly required strong sled-pushers in both seats. Driving is a skill born of experience, and at 30 now, Meyers-Taylor is just entering what is considered the prime of a driver’s career.
It is not a sport that calls many, but for those who heed it, wherever they are from, it can be an almost irresistible one. “I feel this is something I was meant to do,” Meyers-Taylor said.
The next Winter Olympics is three long years away, in South Korea. At this pace, her sled will be the one with the bull’s-eye on it, the one every other team in the world will be chasing.
That also means three more years of training for a sport that resonates hardly at all with the places she calls home.
Not that Meyers-Taylor ever needs to explain, but she can shed a little light on her choices by thinking back on a certain weekend in Winterberg.
“When I hit (a run) perfectly, I feel like a superhero,” she said. “I feel like I’m flying.”