Currently training and preparing for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Games, Elana Meyers Taylor is in peak performance. Elana always dreamt of being an Olympian. She finally made that dream a reality when she qualified for the USA Bobsled National Team her rookie season in 2007. She then went on to win a bronze medal at the 2010 Olympic Games and silver at the 2014 Games. Now Elana’s sights are fully set on taking home the gold in Pyeongchang.
Elana is a two-time recipient of the WSF Travel &Training Fund, which helps provide financial assistance to aspiring champions. She also recently joined the WSF Athlete Advisory Panel to help carry out our mission and to serve as a role model for girls everywhere.
We caught up with Elana between training sessions to discuss her beginnings in bobsleigh, her preparations for the upcoming Winter Olympics, and the significance of receiving WSF Travel & Training Fund grants.
WSF: You were a member of the softball team at George Washington University. What was that experience like?
Elana: I was actually the first recruited athlete and the first player to sign with the [GW softball] program. The first year of the program was the 2002-2003 season and I signed only a month before school started. I was really excited to go there, start the program, be able to build the team and leave a legacy. That’s what really intrigued me about it. To play in a Division I program and be able to have that start was really cool. My experience there was a mixed bag, though. Granted, I have to say I wouldn’t be where I am without that experience but over my five years on the team I ended up having four different coaches. I had a lot of different teammates too but it taught me a lot about sports, taught me a lot about myself and if I hadn’t gone through that experience there’s no way I would have been prepared coming down the line with bobsled.
WSF: What sparked you to transition from softball to bobsled?
Elana: I have wanted to be an Olympian since the age of nine and I wanted every opportunity to make that possible. I tried to play professionally in softball, but I didn’t make the last Olympic softball team there was going to be at the time, although now softball is back in the Olympics. So I just wanted to find a way to be an Olympian. My parents saw bobsled on T.V. and were like, ‘why don’t you try this sport’ and I said, ‘okay, sure why not. They look for big, fast, powerful girls.’ So, I just emailed the coach and got invited to a tryout.
WSF: You are currently training to compete in the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics. What does a typical training day look like for you right now?
Elana: So right now we are in our summer training so we train a little bit like Olympic sprinters and weightlifters combined. We currently train six days a week. I wake up around 8 o’clock in the morning, am at the track by 9:30 or 10 o’clock and there we’ll do running short sprints up to 30 meters, some plyometrics and skips for distance. Then, since we are in Calgary, we’ll do some push training. In Calgary they have the Ice House and it’s a 50 meter start indoors and it’s on ice, so we actually get to practice what it would be like hopping into the sled. So I’ll do some running and then I’ll do some pushing for a half hour or so, but we are always doing different things. My coach has all kinds of crazy ways to workout with the sled. Then I’ll hit the weight room. In the weight room we’re usually doing heavy weight with squats or power cleans, bench press – anything like that, and very low repetitions. My day is over around 2 o’clock, but then I have sports med and sports psychology, nutritionists…all those people that you have to keep in touch with. Then for me I actually work, so I’ll do some work and then call it a day.
WSF: What do you love the most about competing in the Olympics as a member of Team USA?
Elana: Oh my gosh, so much. For me, the biggest thing is just what an honor and privilege it is to wear Team USA on your back – or in our case sometimes on our front – because it’s been a dream of mine for so long. I come from a military family; my dad was a Marine, my aunt is still in the Navy and my grandfathers both served. So, it’s a huge honor for me to represent my country in any way I can and just having that opportunity and being on this Olympic stage is so amazing. If I wasn’t going to join the military, I feel like this is the next best way to represent your country and it’s just an honor to do so. Even walking into Opening Ceremonies and realizing that you’re there to represent not only yourself, not only your family, but your entire country, is an immense honor.
WSF: What are you looking forward to at the 2018 Games?
Elana: What I’m most looking forward to is actually competing and trying to win a gold medal. I was so close in Sochi – a tenth of a second away – from a gold medal. So just going after it and laying it all on the line. My goal is, of course, to win that medal but I also want to go and have a really great performance. I didn’t feel like I drove my best in Sochi, so I want to go and put down consistent runs and see what happens.
WSF: If you could learn a new sport from any female athlete in the world, what’s the sport and who’s the athlete?
Elana: I had the chance to learn rugby from the U.S. Women’s Ruby Team and that was really cool. That introduced me to Jillion Potter who’s one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met. That was an amazing experience and I actually got to play with them in a tournament. So I feel like I’ve lived part of this question but, as far as a different sport, oh my gosh, there are so many I would love to try! Maybe gymnastics from Simone Biles, but I’m not flexible at all…or, skiing with Mikaela Shiffrin. There are a lot of sports I want to try!
WSF: You received a Travel & Training Fund grant from WSF in 2010 and in 2013…what did receiving that grant mean to you?
Elana: Receiving that grant meant everything because back then I was just starting my career as a driver and being a bobsled driver is very expensive. You have to pay for your own equipment and you have to pay for the initial races. Our equipment alone, our runners and our blades, they cost at least $5,000 a set and you have to have a couple sets to be good. So the grant allowed me to help fund my career and help lay the pathway to me being able to be successful in Sochi. Without that I don’t know what I would have done. At the time I was working in a burrito shop wrapping burritos and there are only so many burritos you can wrap to try and make that money, so the grant helped tremendously.
WSF: Last March you joined the WSF Athlete Advisory Panel…what made you want to take on this role?
Elana: It was a huge honor to even be asked and be considered. The Women’s Sports Foundation has done so much for me personally and also for the growth of women’s sports and it’s just something I’ve been really really passionate about. So, when I had the opportunity to join I hopped on the chance. I think what WSF does from grassroots, to elite sports, to advocacy is just amazing, so any way that I can be involved I want to be a part of it. It’s such an honor and a privilege to be in the WSF family.
WSF: Why do you choose to support the Women’s Sports Foundation?
Elana: I really feel passionate about women’s equality in sport. In bobsled, it’s still not there. The U.S. women’s team has been so dominant over the past few years and over the past few Olympics. I think we do a really good job of promoting gender equality in our sport in the U.S., but internationally it has a long way to go. The Women’s Sports Foundation has done so much to try and help create gender equality in sport. They continue to fight and it’s a fight I want to be involved in. It’s so important that little girls have a way to aspire to be athletes and have a way to use athletics to be healthy and to get all the skills – the teamwork, the goal setting, all those things that I learned as an athlete growing up, as well. The Women’s Sports Foundation helps that cause.
WSF: What is the best piece of advice you received in your youth?
Elana: The best piece of advice I received growing up was probably from my father. He would tell me if you want to accomplish something you have to work really hard to do it and be willing to outwork everybody. You must also be willing to accept that people aren’t going to like it and that people are going to tell you you can’t do something – but, it doesn’t matter what people think. It’s all about how hard you’re willing to work for your goals and about your belief in yourself.
The USA Women’s Bobsled Team is seeking to grow the sport in the U.S. and abroad. Elana offers, “if you are an athlete who is really strong and fast and want to get into a new sport after college or after your professional career in another sport, just look us up because we are always looking for talented female athletes.”