Elana Meyers missed Thanksgiving dinner last year. In November, the 29-year-old bobsledder was preparing in Calgary, nearly 2,000 miles away from her home in Douglasville, Ga., for an Olympic qualifying event. Over the past several months, Meyers' eight-hour-a-day training regimen has included a combination of running, lifting, and on-track workouts. She's a near-lock to drive the U.S. women's top bobsled at the 2014 Winter Olympics, but she won't officially know her status until Jan. 19.
"It's based off a points system compared to other countries," Meyers says. "I have to make sure I'm winning races and beating not only other teammates from around the world, but my other teammates."
Next month, Meyers is expected to take part in the Sochi games. It would be her second Olympics. With a bronze already under her belt, the seven-year Olympic vet is focused on nabbing gold on the bobsled track.
Meyers has long had Olympic dreams. Her dad, former Atlanta Falcons running back Eddie Meyers, never forced her to play sports. But she fell in love with the international athletic event during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. She watched the U.S. baseball team hit home runs, witnessed gymnast Kerri Strug's heroic performances, and became immersed in the spirit of her hometown games.
"That's when it seemed real," she says. "That's when I realized what I wanted to do."
For years, Meyers played softball at the college (George Washington University) and professional levels (Mid-Michigan Ice) in hopes of making the U.S. Olympic squad for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. She didn't make the cut, but refused to abandon her Olympic aspirations. She decided to try bobsledding at her parents' suggestion.
"Most bobsledders don't [train] their entire lives," she says. "I knew I wanted to be a bobsledder when the Olympic softball team wasn't going to work out for me."
Meyers quickly transitioned to the brakeman position during her first three years. In 2010, she won a bronze medal in the two-woman bobsled competition at the Vancouver Olympics with pilot Erin Pac. She's since shifted to the driver's seat, a top position with a steep learning curve, and tirelessly worked to become a strong contender in her new role.
"I was able to fast track that process," she says. "It usually takes about eight years until you become really comfortable as a driver and start consistently winning."
Like many winter Olympic sports, bobsledding requires pricey equipment. Top-class aerodynamic sleds can cost tens of thousands of dollars. This year alone, Meyers has spent more than $10,000 of her own personal expenses. Several sponsors such as BMW and Deloitte have helped offset costs, but she's previously worked as a substitute teacher, health blogger, and burrito maker to help pay the rent.
"I've had a slew of odd jobs just to support my dream," she says. "Our sport is very technological and state-of-the-art. To be able to win medals, you have to have great equipment."
The Douglasville bobsledder doesn't know if her athletic career will last to 2018 or 2022. But after Sochi, Meyers is set to marry former U.S. bobsledder Nic Taylor and hopes to start a family. The Olympian will also finish her MBA and prep for life after bobsledding — perhaps someday working for the United States Olympics Committee. Beyond those plans, Meyers isn't entirely sure what's next. Right now, she's only worried about fulfilling her lifelong pursuit of Olympic glory.
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