Softball alumna will race in Olympics

This week’s blizzard aside, Foggy Bottom does not normally look like a place that produces winter athletes. There are no mountains or ice rinks, and snowstorms – although plentiful now – are generally few and far between.

For former GW softball player and current Olympic bobsledder Elana Meyers, none of that mattered.

Meyers, a 2006 alumna who played on GW’s first-ever softball team in 2003, will be competing in the upcoming Vancouver Olympics as a brakeman for a two-man bobsled team, one of three such teams that will be representing the United States.

Even with no prior experience in the sport before joining the team in 2007, Meyers said bobsledding was always something she thought she could be successful in.

“I saw bobsledding on the Olympics in 2002 and 2006 and I thought about trying out then, but I couldn’t because of my softball commitment,” Meyers said. “I finally decided to e-mail the bobsled federation, and they wrote me back and I got a tryout.”

“It was something I saw and basically thought I could do,” the former Colonial added. “Bobsled is about strong and powerful athletes, and that’s what I am.”

That strength and power has allowed Meyers to qualify for her first Olympics, and is also what made her such a force on the softball field for the Colonials. Meyers, who pitched and played infield at GW, still holds team records in nine categories, including career batting average, on-base percentage, and hits and runs scored. Meyers is also the all-time leader in games started, at-bats and stolen bases for the Colonials.

Beyond her raw strength and athletic ability, Meyers said playing softball at GW gave her an attention to detail and a focus that has served her well as a bobsledder.

“In softball you have four-hour practices and you work very hard to fine tune your hitting or fine tune your fielding, and it’s little adjustments you make,” Meyers said. “It’s the same in bobsled. It’s a whole bunch of little adjustments that you make that make a huge difference at the end of the day.”

The transition from Foggy Bottom to bobsledding was not an immediate one for Meyers, who graduated summa cum laude with a degree in exercise science. She retained an extra year of eligibility and played her final year of softball for the Colonials in 2007 while starting work on a master’s degree.

After leaving the team, Meyers played professional softball for the Mid-Michigan Ice for a season before finally deciding to try bobsledding. The switch from training for a spring and summer sport to a winter sport was not a small one for the Georgia native.

“I didn’t even own a coat when I started bobsledding,” Meyers said. “It was difficult, just getting used to the cold, how to prepare yourself for the cold, how to train in the cold.”

Meyers has been spending a lot of time in the cold this year, training full-time with her Olympic teammates. During non-Olympic years, Meyers splits her time between training with the bobsled team and working on her master’s degree back at GW. Her bobsled training takes place in California in the summer, where she lifts weights and runs, and in the winter at bobsled tracks in Lake Placid, N.Y. or Park City, Utah.

Since bobsled is an amateur sport, Meyers often has to juggle a job with her training and schoolwork, teaching softball lessons or working as a personal trainer during the months she’s home.

“It’s not the most lucrative of professions,” Meyers said. Even without the substantial sponsorships that fund many Olympic athletes, Meyers said she has quickly fallen in love with her adopted sport.

“Bobsled’s fast, it’s exciting, it’s fun, it’s nervousness, it’s like an adrenaline rush,” Meyers said. “Every trip is a new adventure, and for me it was a new adventure. It was something different than softball, something different to try. I’d never done any winter sports before, so it was quite an adventure all the way around.”

With the games set to begin Friday night with the opening ceremonies, Meyers said she feels confident her team can not only compete, but earn a medal in her first Olympics.

“We’re one of the fastest starting teams, and at this track it’s really important,” she said. “So I think we have an excellent opportunity to really do some damage.”

Meyers will get her chance at an Olympic medal beginning Feb. 23 with the women’s bobsled preliminary races. The medal race will be held Feb. 24, and races both days will begin at 8 p.m.

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