Two U.S. women’s bobsled teams achieved medal position Tuesday after heats at the rainy Sanki Sliding Center at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Favorites Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams in the USA-1 sled are in first place going into Wednesday’s final heats. The USA-2 sled, featuring pilot Jamie Greubel and brakeman Aja Evans, sits a half-second off the pace in third but with a solid half-second lead for the coveted bronze spot.
“This Olympics has been the most difficult athletic experience … of my life,” Meyers wrote on Facebook Sunday. “I’ve been beaten up physically, mentally, and emotionally. I don’t say that for sympathy—I say it because I know that everything is worth it for the less than 4 minutes I will race on ice.”
Meyers is an outspoken “Christ-follower” who took over as a pilot after winning bronze in 2010. Active with Athletes in Action (AIA), Meyers said she believes God put her in bobsled to support others’ goals, but also to help others come to Christ. “At the end of the day, I’m in this sport to glorify God,” she told AIA. “So, if that means I come in last place or I win the gold medal, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Nineteen two-woman teams took to the mile-long course Tuesday—three from the United States. Sitting in second are Canadians Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse, defending gold medalists in the Canada-1 sled. They are just 0.23 seconds behind first place after two solid runs. The slight cushion the top three teams have over the rest of the pack sets up an 80-mph brawl over hundredths of a second in the third heat Wednesday.
The third U.S. pair didn’t fare quite as well. Pilot Jazmine Fenlator steered Lolo Jones and the USA-3 sled through two of the bumpier runs of the day. “I've been antsy to get on the ice,” Fenlator said, blaming much of the trouble on herself. “Everyone reacts different, and I tend to get ahead of myself in the sled.”
The U.S. women have remained consistent since their practice runs, which bodes well for Wednesday. Medals for the U.S. women, nicknamed the “Wolfpack,” would continue a solid showing for American sliders in Sochi. Steven Holcomb and Steven Langton’s bronze medal in the two-man bobsled Monday was the first American medal in the men’s event since 1952.
For Jones, competing as a bobsledder offered her an opportunity to win an Olympic medal after tough finishes in track in the 2008 and 2012 Summer Games. Some of her teammates said Jones only made the team because of her popularity. She and Williams are the ninth and 10th Americans to compete in both the Summer and Winter Olympics. Williams won the gold medal in the 400-meter relay during the 2012 Summer Games in London.
“I’m happy where my teammates are at,” Jones said Tuesday. “We're here, we’re Team USA. We’ll Wolfpack it.” As her medal hopes seem to be dimming, she tweeted her “heart is hurting,” but she’s playing Michael W. Smith’s “Agnus Dei” on a loop.
The third heat takes place at 11:15 a.m. EST Wednesday, with the final heat beginning roughly at 12:25 p.m. EST. The cumulative time of all four runs determines the winner. “God has given us this great opportunity and only He knows the outcome,” Meyers wrote on Facebook, “so we’re going to fight hard and see what happens! Let’s do this!”