BEIJING — She has raced on at least 15 different bobsled tracks in 11 countries. She had no less than 41 different teammates in her sleds. She has more Olympic medals than any other bobsledder in US history, with a chance to win one more this weekend. She became an activist, fighting for equality for women in sport. And she became a wife and mother along the way.
After 15 years as a bobsledder, Elana Meyers Taylor has done just about anything she wants.
And now the finish line could be in sight.
Without making any sort of official “this is it” statement, Meyers Taylor is thinking about retirement and hinted that the women’s race at the Beijing Olympics – which starts Friday and ends Saturday – could be her last official time in a sled.
“Chances are this will be my last,” Meyers Taylor said.
On the surface, it’s not entirely surprising. At 37, her silver medal in the first women’s monobob event earlier this week made her the oldest woman to medal in an Olympic bobsleigh event; she is about three months older than Italy’s Gerda Weissensteiner when she won a bronze medal at the Turin Games in 2006.
Perhaps even more impressively, Meyers Taylor also became the oldest woman to medal for the United States at the Winter Olympics in any sport. She became the oldest American to medal in bobsleigh at the Olympics since Brian Shimer, then 39, won bronze in the four-man at the Salt Lake City Games in 2002.
“All season Elana has been on a mission,” said American male athlete Carlo Valdes.
It’s not like his driving skills had diminished to the point where it was clearly time to retire. Quite the opposite, in fact.
She won the overall World Cup title in the traditional women’s two-man discipline, her first points crown since the 2014-15 season. She also won the season title in the Monobob World Series, the new rider-only event.
Silver in the monobob won him 4-for-4 until reaching the podium in his Olympic appearances; it pushed Erin Pac to a bronze medal at the Vancouver Games in 2010, then led to a silver medal at Sochi in 2014 and Pyeongchang in 2018.
“She’s an incredible athlete,” said Sylvia Hoffman, who will push Meyers Taylor’s sled this weekend in the women’s Olympic race. “She was the first driver with whom I won a medal. She is very competent. She loves what she does.
But at 37, Meyers Taylor is quick to say that the body doesn’t bounce back like it used to. Concussions have been a concern in recent years, although she appears to have cleared that hurdle. The biggest problem is family: Meyers Taylor is the mother of a son with Down syndrome and profound hearing loss, which has led to enormous logistical challenges to continue her slippery career.
Her son, Nico, travels with her on tour; it helps that her husband, Nic, is on the men’s national team as a push athlete. A caretaker has also traveled with the family during the World Cup season to help out when Nico’s parents are on the track. Finding ways to make everything work has, by his own admission, been a challenge. And the Olympic experience was particularly difficult, given that she tested positive for COVID-19 and had to self-isolate – meaning she wasn’t around Nico for the first time since birth. .
“My son was taken away from me, so spending a lot of time away from my son was the hardest part. Away from my family was the hardest part,” Meyers Taylor said. “This whole journey has been a family mission the whole time. So now being away from them at the most critical time, when I needed their support the most, it’s been really difficult.”
She is quick to point out that her son has been remarkably resilient, noting that he handled things better than she probably did.
“The biggest kid in the world,” she said.
Overcoming challenges has not been part of its history. It’s his story. Meyers Taylor – one of at least nine black, mostly American women to medal in bobsleigh in its 20-year Olympic history – wrote an essay for the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee website in 2020 about race, racism in sport, and some examples of what she and her husband have been through.
“My job now, like any parent, is to make sure my son has a better life than mine,” she wrote in that post.
And now it could mean it’s time for a career change.
There’s a running joke in boardsports: everyone pulls out once and comes back. And it’s not uncommon to see sliders, after an Olympic season, do a kind of lap of honor and spend a final season enjoying the last trip to the various slopes of the world.
Officially, this has not been ruled out. It should also be noted that the next three World Championships are set to be held at what are probably Meyers Taylor’s three favorite tracks – St. Moritz in 2023, Winterberg in 2024 and Lake Placid in 2025 – so the temptation to stay in the trimmings will clearly be there.
For now, all that is certain is one last Olympic race. And then you have to make a decision.
“Everything must come to an end,” said Meyers Taylor. “I’ve had an amazing run, and if this is the end, if this is my last race, then I’m going to enjoy it to the fullest.”