Rock stars, movies stars and presidents are not the only people who have entourages; turns out women bobsledders have them as well.
Katie Eberling, the brakeman for the USA-1 women's bobsled piloted by Elana Meyers, had an entourage consisting of 17 former members of her college volleyball team, members from a dance company, primary schoolmates and her parents; many had driven all the way out from Michigan. No less enthusiastic though not quite as personal, Russian women bobsledders Olga Fedorova, Margarita Ismailova, Anastasia Tambovtseva, Liudmila Udobkina, Victoria Tokovaya and Aleksandra Pahmutova had 44 members of the Elizabethtown/Lewis Central School 4th and 5th graders, with their faculty chaperons, cheering them on.
"I am a happy camper," said Katie's dad Hal Eberling after her and Meyers' first run, which left them in second place. "Katie was here doing her experience run last year and this year she is the brakeman for USA 1."
Katie Eberling among her 17-person entourage
Photo/Naj Wikoff/Lake Placid News
"How did she get interested in bobsledding?" I asked.
"Elana Meyers saw her on the National Strength and Conditioning Association All-Americans web site, where she was Western Michigan's female strength and conditioning athlete of the year," said her dad. "She had just finished up as a member of their volleyball team. Elana sent her an email asking if she would like to come try out. After four years of volleyball she thought her athlete career was done, and here we are on top of the world. My head is bouncing back and forth. Katie decided to come to Placid and won the push championships. They have gotten a gold, silver and bronze racing in the Europa Cup and now she is currently in second place for a World Cup. I still don't believe that we are here!"
"It is so surreal," said her mom Pat Eberling. "I don't know what to think. It is awesome. I was sick to my stomach this morning I was so nervous. I am just in awe. We brought a whole contingent: all her friends. The fact that they all showed up says a lot about Katie."
"We went to high school with Katie," said Colette Coverick. "It's just so unbelievable! That's why we came here. It all happened so fast. We came out to support her."
"Members of her volleyball team plus some from her dance team came as well," said Maggie Christensen.
"Her being here and doing so well is so inspiring," said Lindsey West. "We are all so proud of Katie."
"Would you like to take up bobsledding?"
"Yes, if I was five years younger," said Lindsey.
"Everything is great," said bobsled assistant coach Mike Kohn. "The track is in great shape. Everyone has done a fantastic job hosting the event. If we could have the World Championships here every year we would love it, but of course the race has to be moved around."
"Katie Eberling has quite the entourage," I said. "Seventeen friends and family drove out to support her."
"Katie is outstanding," said Kohn. "She is very talented. She really impressed me in Germany. She pushes her guts out. She is going to be one of the world's best. She trains hard. She never complains. In Konigssee she and her driver crashed. They had a rollover. They went back up and she pushed even harder, and they crashed again. I asked her if she was OK. She said yes. I checked her a couple different times. They went up and again she pushed even harder. Often after a crash an athlete will back off, not Katie. Third time they made it down. She does what it takes. She loves the sport. She is going to be great."
"There is no atmosphere quite like this," said Katie after her second run, which now had them in third place. "You have to keep your head and your cool. I am enjoying it. I am having fun. I am so grateful that my family and friends are here. Their support gets me fired up. I love bobsledding. It is such a rush and such an exciting sport. It can't be beat. A year ago I could never imagined that I would be here at the World Championships."
"We are rooting for the Russians," said Marjorie Simard, one of 44 elementary students from the Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School.
"It was exciting every time they went down," said classmate Brayden Drew. "They had to stay within the little lines (the starter tracks). I liked that people went down first and tested the run to see if it was safe in case I ever decide to go into the sport."
"Are you planning on becoming a bobsledder?"
"Not really, it is a little too dangerous for me," said Drew.
"I would like to be a bobsledder; it seems really fun. I thought it was really cool how they went through the turns sideways," said Bree Hunsdon. "I also liked how they ran really fast at the start."
"It was really cool how they went around the corners really fast," said Wade Phinney, who has no plans to become a bobsledder.
"It was really exciting and fun because we got to watch them get into the sleds and head down," said Marjorie Simard. "It was one of the best days of my life. I don't think I will become a bobsledder because is really dangerous and it can cause death."
"Not necessarily," said David Duso. "You just might get really hurt. I would like to be a bobsledder. I liked how really fast they had to run to get going."
"Many of the kids have never seen bobsledding or the bobrun before," said Jodie Thompson, a 5th grade E-LCS teacher. "The Bobsled Federation assigned us the Russians. We explained to the kids that this race was a big opportunity for these athletes. They are future Olympians and that they train very hard. We looked up the Russian women. The students learned their backgrounds, about Russia, their flag, and about the difference between luge, skeleton and 2 and 4 man bobsledding so they could appreciate how awesome this sport and these women are."
"We felt that the kids were cheering for us," said Russian brakeman Aleksandra Pahmutova. "Their support meant a lot to us as foreign athletes. It was exciting to have them behind us. We wish we could have done better for them and go to their school and thank them."
The Russians were not the only team with cheering kids behind them. Keene kids rang bells for Germany, St. Agnes supported Canada, Warrensburg took on Great Britain and Potsdam kids were behind the American team.