Q&A Alumna looks to take home bobsled gold in Sochi

Double alumna Elana Meyers will head to Russia this week to compete in her second Winter Olympics, looking to bring home the gold in women’s bobsledding. Meyers, a former varsity athlete, earned a bronze medal four years ago in Vancouver.

As a softball player for the Colonials, Meyers was twice named an Atlantic 10 co-student athlete of the year. She picked up bobsledding just two years before she made the U.S. national team.

She earned a bachelor’s degree from the School of Public Health and Health Services in 2006 and a master’s from the GW School of Business in 2011.

The 29-year-old told The Hatchet how she is preparing mentally and physically for the games. Here’s what she said Monday in a Skype interview from her hotel room in Germany, the last stop on her way to the Olympics.

Hatchet: You were officially named to the 2014 U.S. Olympic bobsled team last week. What had the past few weeks leading up to the announcement entailed for you?

Every season we have a series of eight races, and during those races, we earn points, so based off of how you finished you earn points and then that will determine your overall ranking. That will determine whether you go on to race world championships or, in an Olympic year, whether you race the Olympics. So basically for the past four months, that has been that process for me … to make sure that I qualify for the Olympic team.

Hatchet: How have you been preparing specifically for these Olympics? Are you taking a different strategy than the 2010 Olympics, where you placed bronze?

I am definitely taking a different strategy because I am in a different position now. I’m a driver, and in 2010, I was a brakeman. It was a completely different role. It was up to me to qualify my sled, so every single race I was using as preparation for the games and for what it would feel like to race in four heats of the Olympics and to really just prepare and hold my driving skills.

Driving takes a lot of skill and it’s actually pretty rare for me to have so much success so early in my career. It usually takes about eight to 10 years to really become a really good driver. So this season has been quite a whirlwind because it was definitely unexpected.

Hatchet: You played softball for years. How have you transferred what you learned in that particular sport to bobsledding?

Softball is a game where you have to take it pitch by pitch. You can’t get ahead of yourself, and you really have to focus on what you are doing when you are in the batter’s spot. It’s the same things in bobsled. I have to take things curve by curve. I can’t get ahead of myself. Much like softball as well, we are dealing with quick reactions … I have to be on my game at all times. But I think mentally the whole process of dealing with teammates, dealing with outside stresses and dealing with the different challenges that come with you in the course of a softball season really helped prepare me for bobsled.

I love competing. I think it was of the most fun things I get to do. That’s why my races on Sunday went so well because I was just so excited to be there. I give out more for the big races than I can for the little races just because I love that atmosphere. I love being around screaming fans, and I love that anxiety or that nervousness and excitement that overcomes my body whenever I get in a competitive situation.

Hatchet: Can you describe the World Cup bobsled tour? You won seven medals – the most for a woman this year.

We had four races in North America and four races in Europe, and those races are on different tracks. We are traveling to a different location every single week. Winning medals each week is really about testing your driving skills because every single track in the world is different, so you have to be able to drive well in a variety of tracks and a variety of different situations. This season, I had a really good season and was able to do that.

Hatchet: With Russian security forces searching for suspected suicide bombers, and one may already be in Sochi, how have security measures affected the has the U.S. team? Have you seen an increase in security?

There definitely is an increase of security. What that actually will look like, we have not been briefed on yet. We will actually get briefed later this week, but I know the [United States Olympic Committee] is doing everything possible to make sure that athletes are safe.

Hatchet: Russian officials acknowledged last week that, so far, only about 70 percent of the tickets for the Olympics have been sold. Is the U.S. team concerned about turnout? Would a smaller audience affect your performance?

At the end of the day, I’m going to go out there and compete for my country. I would like to have millions of U.S. fans there at the sidelines screaming, but I understand the logistics behind it. I understand the security concerns. I understand why a lot of people aren’t going. For me, only my father and my fiancé will be making the trip.

Hatchet: What are your goals for these Olympics?

To put out the best performance that’s possible, to go into Sochi and lay down four consistent, solid race runs and to do the best I can. I can’t control what is going to happen with the weather. I can’t control what’s going to happen with my opponents, but I can control my own performance. And I want to go out there and have one of the best performances of my life, whether that ends in a medal or not. We’ll see, but if I do what I’m supposed to, then I’ll walk away happily.

Hatchet: What is left to be done before Feb. 7?

My room [in Germany] right now is a disaster zone, so I have to pack up all this stuff I’ve been using all season long. I haven’t been home since Christmas, but before that, it was a while since I’ve been home. I’m trying to organize all this stuff that I’ve had all season. We will get all our Olympic gear in the next day or so and head over to Sochi.

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