The gold medal contender sat on a cushy chair in a Washington hotel lobby, sucking on a cough drop to soothe her aching throat. Out of nowhere, almost as if by instinct, a figure appeared bearing a cup of soup.
"Our specials today . . ." Nic Taylor said, and he placed the saucer down in front of Elana Meyers Taylor. She looked up, and they both laughed.
"It's a fact," Meyers Taylor said. "I need him. He's very instrumental to this."
"This" would be Meyers Taylor's pursuit of a gold medal in bobsled, which is a realistic possibility given she won bronze in 2010 as a push athlete, then drove her sled to silver four years ago in the Sochi Games, and has since won two golds at world championships. Now she is off to South Korea as a favorite to win the whole thing, in some ways a natural progression for an athlete who is closer to the end of her career than the beginning, but still undeniably in her prime.
The difference for Meyers Taylor, though, is apparent in that soup delivery. Nic Taylor is an athlete in his own right, a pusher who qualified as an alternate for the Olympics. And as of 2014, he is also husband to the former Elana Meyers.
So theirs is a journey unique on the American team. They share not only hotel lobby soup. They share not only dreams. They share anxiety and nerves and disappointments — all of it.
"Being so involved in each other's results, it brings a heightened sense of calm and a heightened sense of chaos into every single situation," Taylor said as his wife started in on her soup. "Because you can help so much leading into something. 'I'll help you build the parachutes. I'll help you polish your runners. I'll help you wax your sled.' We can talk about push technique. We can talk about driving. That all brings a ton of confidence.
"But then, when it's time to go, there's nothing I can do."
As an alternate on one of three U.S. four-man sleds, Taylor will be able to travel to South Korea with the team, live in the Athletes' Village and be around during training. The couple considers Taylor's inclusion a victory. But the main goals belong to Meyers Taylor, a former softball player at George Washington who has, in a decade's time, developed into one of the top bobsled drivers on the planet.
"The first time, you're just so much in awe, and everything is just the most amazing thing that ever happened," Meyers Taylor said. "And now it's like we're moving into the Olympics with a mission."
The use of "we" there is hardly accidental. Meyers Taylor's on-ice team in PyeongChang will be Lauren Gibbs, a 33-year-old brakeman who will experience her first Olympics. But it's clear her most important teammate is Taylor — who, despite the introduction of a mixed-gender team in the Olympic bobsled schedule, won't be anywhere near the starting gate on race day. They will not room together in the Athletes' Village; that will be reserved for Gibbs and Meyers Taylor. But they will eat together. They will talk together. They will continue a dynamic unlike any other on the American team.
"He's trying to be as supportive of me as possible and at the same time trying to do what he needs to do," Meyers Taylor said. "Being an Olympic alternate, it's incredible just to have that experience. But at the same time, I think it's going to be a huge asset for me to have him at the Games alongside the entire time."
Meyers Taylor said this last week during a stop in Washington for the entire bobsled team, an opportunity to rub elbows and share hors d'oeuvres with donors who had contributed to their cause. She and her teammates had just left Germany and the European leg of the World Cup tour. They were en route to Chula Vista, Calif., where the group will train before departing Thursday for South Korea. Meyers Taylor's competition won't be until Feb. 20-21, late in the Olympics. There is time to kill, time to get over her cough and cold.
Yet even with the wait and the anticipation of improving on her medal — Meyers Taylor sits second in the World Cup standings behind Canada's Kaillie Humphries — Meyers Taylor doesn't want to give up the sport after these Olympics. This would mean continuing an itinerant — some would say downright unstable — life with Taylor. Ask where the couple lives, and the answer starts as, "Well, Phoenix for a while." It includes shacking up at training centers. And it ends with: out of suitcases.
"We have a storage unit," Meyers Taylor said. That, for now, is in Colorado Springs, home to the USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation. Its contents: their bed, their wedding gifts, their lives — on hold for their sport. Humphries, Meyers Taylor's rival and friend, gave the couple a Café Barista espresso maker as a wedding present. They have never used it.
"I can't wait," Meyers Taylor said.
First, though, comes these Olympics, and a quest for a gold medal. And then . . . another try? Meyers Taylor is 33. Taylor is 30.
"I don't want this to be it as far as bobsled goes," Meyers Taylor said.
But if she returns in four years, might it be with a different program? This season, she did not attempt to qualify a sled in the four-man competition — a discipline that is open to either gender — so she could concentrate on her goals with Gibbs. But in 2022, when the Winter Games are held in China?
"That would be so cool," Meyers Taylor said.
"We're actually a ridiculously good team," Taylor said.
With that, half the team finished her soup, and the couple headed up a staircase, and toward PyeongChang, like they do most everything: together.
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