Countdown to Vancouver: 3 days
From softball standout at George Washington to U.S. Olympic bobsledder, Elana Meyers makes the most of a change in course
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
There was a time, when Elana Meyers was playing shortstop for George Washington University's softball team, that she would watch the women representing the United States in her sport, playing in the Olympic Games, and consider it a possibility for the future. The progression seemed natural. She left the Colonials after 2007 as a two-time Atlantic 10 co-student athlete of the year, and she would try to become an Olympian on the diamond herself, playing the sport she had practiced for a lifetime.
Somehow -- and there are some good reasons why, though they take some explaining -- Meyers's Olympic dream took a swift detour. Softball is no more. Rather, she will arrive next week in the mountain town of Whistler, B.C., to push a 300-pound sled down an icy chute and then hop aboard for the 80-mph ride in hopes of a medal -- in bobsledding, a sport she picked up precisely two years before she was named to the U.S. team.
"I still have those moments," Meyers said. "There's times when I'll be out in the middle of the track, standing in the curve, and I'll just laugh. 'What the heck am I doing right now? I'm sliding down the hill at crazy speeds and standing in freezing cold weather.' "
How can this happen?
"I have no idea," said Eddie Meyers, her father.
What's important is that Meyers's lifetime goal, according to her father, was to be an Olympian. Softball seemed to be the natural choice, because during her junior and senior seasons at GW, she hit .414 and .413, respectively. But two things happened: Meyers had tryouts with the junior national and national softball teams that, she said, "didn't go as smoothly as I would have liked," and a summer of playing professionally didn't increase her chances. Second, softball was dropped from the Olympic program for 2012. There seemed to be no dream left to pursue.
"But I heard about this camp in two weeks," she said.
That would be a camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. For bobsledding. For a kid from Douglasville, Ga.
She called her parents.
"I got a letter from the USOC!" her father remembers her saying. Eddie Meyers was a co-captain on the Navy football team in 1982, a running back who likely would have contributed to the Atlanta Falcons -- with whom he spent six summers in training camps and workouts -- if he didn't have to also fulfill his service obligations, which included a stint as a Marine in the Gulf War. He understands athletic dreams, and had talked to each of his three daughters about them.
"My point to her has always been that, 'You're an athlete; you're always going to be an athlete,' " Eddie Meyers said. "We've talked about this all along. Athletes always find something to do. It doesn't matter what it is, you're going to want to compete."
Here, then, was the opportunity. Eddie and Jan Meyers told their middle daughter to go for it.