From the diamond to the ice

From the time when she was young, Elana Meyers dreamed of going to the Olympics. In what capacity, she wasn’t sure, but she knew she wanted to be on a national team and then compete for her country.

The former GW softball standout may finally have her chance in January 2010. Meyers will compete for a spot on the U.S. bobsled team.

“It’s funny, you never think of going to college to (learn how to) bobsled,” Meyers said.

But Meyers did that, in a roundabout way. The Douglasville, Ga., native spent five seasons on GW’s softball squad as a pitcher and shortstop, receiving a redshirt year after the season was canceled seven games into her sophomore year. She started every game of her career, batting .356 and recording 202 hits. After leaving Foggy Bottom last May, she gave professional softball a chance but was so unhappy that she figured she would try her hand at something completely new: bobsledding.

She was invited to attend an open tryout last September that was similar to an NFL combine. Meyers said she had to do timed runs, a vertical jump and a broad jump, among other drills.

“They want to see how athletic someone is,” she said. “It’s more a test of athleticism than bobsled skill.”

Meyers impressed the scouts and is now one of nine members of the U.S. Women’s Bobsled World Cup Team, which becomes the pool of athletes eligible to try out for the Olympics. The team is split into two positions: the breakman and the driver, with every sled containing one of each.

Meyers is the breakman. Her job, as the title states, is to stop the sled at the end of the run down the course, but she is also responsible for giving the sled the majority of its initial velocity. Since bobsledding is a sport that revolves around time, initial velocity is very important, so important that there are push championships held once a year for breakmen to compete against one another. Each track also has push records. Push times, Meyers said, is a way to measure a breakman’s strength.

“Elana came into the season with a small background of running and lifting,” said Erin Pac, the driver with whom Meyers most often competes. “She was able to build on these by training hard and learning from other athletes.”

The world cup team is split into three sleds, labeled “one” “two” and “three,” with skill level decreasing as the number increases. Meyers is on the “two” sled. In other words, she could be considered the second best bobsled pusher in the country.

“The ‘one’ sled won the silver medal at the last Olympics,” Meyers said. “So I’m in pretty good company.”

Though it may seem like she is in a good place to qualify for Vancouver, she admitted that there is new talent that comes around every year that could capture her spot. There are two lower levels of bobsledding, America’s Cup and Europa’s Cup, that are used for development and are similar to the minor leagues in baseball.

Meyers has competed in events in those circuits, including this weekend’s Lake Placid America’s Cup, in order to gain more experience. Those that compete on the lower circuits can move up in level and then attempt to qualify for the Olympics.

With the conclusion of the Lake Placid event, Meyers heads home to Georgia to take some time off and train before next season begins in November. She will also try to complete her Master’s degree online in tourism and sports management, which she began after receiving her undergraduate degree in exercise science in January 2006.

“I hope one day to open a training facility. My own gym. Something like that,” she said. “But I want to stay with bobsled as long as possible. Hopefully I’ve got another couple years.”

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