U.S. bobsled team looks to future
KRASNAYA POLYANA , Russia -- After the two-women bobsled competition ended Wednesday and all the places were determined, a wildly exuberant Lolo Jones rushed up to congratulate teammates Jamie Greubel and Aja Evans on their medal.
"Congrats on the silver!" Jones shouted.
"Ummm," Greubel said. "We got bronze."
"It's a medal!" Jones replied. "Who cares? I don't care if it's a chocolate medal! It's a medal!"
Gold, silver, bronze, chocolate, cubic zirconium ... it probably doesn't matter what the Olympic medal is made of when you've come so painfully close to winning one as Jones has. The hurdler-turned-bobsledder still hasn't won a medal -- she and driver Jazmine Fenlator finished 11th -- but two of the other track athletes the U.S. recruited to push its sleds did. Evans, a former sprinter and shotputter, took that bronze with Greubel while Lauryn Williams, with pilot Elana Meyers, got the silver.
Despite the athletes' excitement over the two medals, the lack of gold was a disappointment for the U.S. team. After Tuesday's first two heats, Meyers and Williams held a substantial .23 second first-place lead over the Canadian sled driven by 2010 gold medalist Kaillie Humphries.
They still led by .11 seconds heading into the fourth and final run Wednesday and just needed a clean final run for the gold medal. Instead, they nicked the wall early on and did so several more times, nearly turning sideways at one point. They wound up losing .21 seconds on the run and finishing second to the Canadians by one tenth of a second. Grueble and Evans were one second back.
"I just made some mistakes," Meyers said. "The last run, Curve 2 kind of bit us and cost us some speed. It just slipped away. Those mistakes cost us. But Lauryn pushed her heart out and I fought hard every single second of that run and it just didn't come out on top for us."
Meyers took bronze as a pusher on the U.S. sled in Vancouver but she was determined to win as a driver. She converted to that more important bobsled position after Vancouver and just as importantly, she also started actively recruiting other athletes to the sport to improve the U.S. program. She recruited Jones, who joined the team after the 2012 Summer Games, and Lolo subsequently recruited Williams last year.
Williams, a silver medalist in the 100 at the 2004 Olympics and gold medalist as part of the 4x100 relay team in 2012, would have been the first woman and the second athlete in Olympic history to win gold in both the Summer and Winter Games. Instead, she became the third woman to win medals of any type in the two Olympics (the others are speedskaters/cyclists Christ Luding of Germany and Clara Hughes of Canada).
"Like I said yesterday, I didn't come here to make history, I came here to help Team USA," Williams said. "And I felt like I did the best I could for Team USA."
"Lauryn's like a Jesse Owens," Jones said. "I hope she just inspired a country. I hope she's everywhere when I get back to the U.S. I hope she's a household name."
We'll see whether that happens, though the track and field athletes have certainly boosted the U.S. program. Jones said she isn't sure whether she will continue in the sport -- she said she enjoys it but needs a break from constant training -- while Williams said there is a 33 percent chance she will come back for the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang.
"Bobsled is hard," Williams said. "After 10 years of pro sports it's time for me to move onto something else. Waking up every day and going to the gym and running -- if I'm not going to put my heart and soul into that, I don't want to be mediocre."
Meyers, however, is determined to come back in four years. She has a bronze medal from 2010. She has a silver from this year. So forget chocolate, she wants a gold medal in 2018.
"Anytime 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. "But at the end of the day, I'm super-elated for this medal. And Kaillie beat me. I have to deal with that. I have to go back and train even harder for Pyeongchang and we'll see what happens. We've been battling back and forth all year. It's been super fun to race that kind of competition.
"She got the best of me now but we'll see in four years."