Meyers Taylor makes history with Olympic bronze in Beijing

Elana Meyers Taylor and Sylvia Hoffman, of the United States, celebrate after the women's bobsleigh heat 4 at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022, in the Yanqing district of Beijing. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)

BEIJING (AP) — Laura Nolte and Mariama Jamanka added to Germany’s record haul of Olympic medals.

Elana Meyers Taylor extended her medal record, too.

The German sliding domination of the Beijing Games continued Saturday, Feb. 19, with Nolte driving to gold and Jamanka winning the silver in the women’s bobsled competition — and Meyers Taylor, in possibly her last race, grabbed the bronze for the fifth medal of her Olympic career.

That’s more than any Black athlete in Winter Olympic history, the most by any women’s bobsledder at the Olympics and two more than any other Olympic bobsledder, male or female, has won for the United States.

“That is overwhelming,” Meyers Taylor said. “It’s so crazy to hear that stat and know that I’m part of a legacy that’s bigger than me.”

Nolte and Deborah Levi won with ease, finishing four runs in 4 minutes, 3.96 seconds. Jamanka, the 2018 Olympic champion, and Alexandra Burghardt were second in 4:04.73. Meyers Taylor and Olympic rookie Sylvia Hoffman were third in 4:05.48.

“I can’t believe it,” Nolte said. “It’s what we’ve wanted all along. This was our dream. Winning Olympic gold was our dream.”

Gold was Meyers Taylor’s dream, too.

But a fifth medal — clearly, she wasn’t disappointed whatsoever.

Meyers Taylor smacked the top of her sled in celebration as she crossed the line knowing that the medal was clinched, hopped out and gave Hoffman a hug before throwing her fists into the air.

“I went with the fastest woman out here, because I’m the fastest brakewoman out here,” said Hoffman, who wants to start driving.

Germany’s Kim Kalicki moved up to fourth in 4:06.28, Canada’s Christine de Bruin was fifth in 4:06.37, Switzerland’s Melanie Hasler drove to sixth in 4:06.83 and the U.S. team of monobob gold medalist Kaillie Humphries — battling a right leg injury that adversely impacted her start times — and Olympic rookie Kaysha Love fell to seventh in 4:07.04.

“It hurts, I won’t lie,” Humphries said. “I gave every ounce of everything I had to the last two days and it wasn’t there. I’m proud of the work that we put in and what we put into it. It sucks and it’s infuriating to know that it wasn’t good enough, but at the end of the day, that’s racing. We can’t be fearful of not being the best. Both Kaysha and I had giant targets on our back coming in and I’m so proud of what we did together.”

Humphries plans on missing the next one or two seasons to start a family. She insisted Saturday night that she will race at one final Olympics in 2026.

“At the end of the day, my body just gave up,” Humphries said. “My calf did, anyway. And I think my mind, a little bit, too. I just hit a wall and didn’t have it.”

Said Love, who wants to learn to drive: “I’m so proud of us. The experience that she’s given me at my first Olympic Games, it’s unmatched.”

Germany had nine golds — in 10 events — and 16 medals overall in the three sliding sports at the Beijing Olympics. They already have more golds, and more medals, in sliding events than any nation ever has at any Olympics.

What the Germans have done at these Olympics is historic.

And what Meyers Taylor has done at the last four Olympics is also historic.

She’s now one of only four bobsledders ever to compete in at least five Olympic races and medal in all of them. She became the fifth American bobsledder to win two medals in a single Olympics — pilot Stan Benham and pusher Pat Martin did it in 1952, pilot Steven Holcomb and pusher Steve Langton did it in 2014. And, thanks to women having two events at the Olympics for the first time this year, she’s going to forever be the first female bobsledder to win two medals at the same Games.

“It meant a lot to me to have her support my career goals,” Hoffman said.

Meyers Taylor’s totals, including her Olympic debut as a push athlete: three silvers, two bronzes. The Beijing medals were a silver behind Humphries in monobob, and now this bronze.

“She’s already a legend in the sport,” U.S. men’s push athlete Carlo Valdes said. “Another medal just adds to all the accolades, really. … She’s in a league of her own and it’s cool to watch.”

USA Bobsled ended the Beijing Games with three medals. The Americans won four in bobsled at the 1932 and 2014 Games; they also won three in 1948 and 2002.

“For us to have three medals in this Olympics, that’s a grand slam considering where we’re coming from with Kaillie’s citizenship and Elana having COVID two weeks ago,” U.S. bobsled coach Mike Kohn said.

Indeed, this road was far from an easy one for the Americans.

Humphries didn’t even know until December, when she obtained citizenship, that she would be able to compete in Beijing. And Meyers Taylor was in isolation when the Olympics started after testing positive for the coronavirus, meaning she had to give up her role as one of the two U.S. flagbearers at the opening ceremony.

She carried the U.S. flag into the closing ceremony on Sunday. After two weeks of driving fast, a nice slow walk might be the perfect way to transition into whatever comes next.

“I’m going to take some time and really think about this,” Meyers Taylor said. “It’s going to be really hard to top this Olympics. Two medals and now closing it out with flagbearer, it’s going to be really hard to top that.”

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