Elana Meyers

Elana Meyers, Nic Taylor wed in bobsled-tinged ceremony

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NEW YORK — Elana Meyers and Nic Taylor met through bobsled in 2011 and began dating. Taylor proposed to Meyers at the medal podium of the 2013 World Championships. Their wedding last week didn’t pass without references to the sport, either.

“When they gave their personal vows, a lot of the audience probably didn’t understand,” said Olympic teammate Jazmine Fenlator, one of about 75 people at the Douglasville, Ga., gathering Thursday. “It was a lot of bobsled and training innuendos. You know, I’ll stand with you whenever you’re gluten-free and dairy-free, which is the nutrition plan when we’re in season.”

Fenlator remembered them saying at the end, “Now let’s go have some fun,” and gave each other high-fives, just as Meyers does at the start line with her brakemen before her bobsled heats.

Meyers, a two-time Olympic medalist, and Taylor, a former U.S. Bobsled athlete, began life as a married couple by traveling to Washington and then New York. First, Meyers had her college softball No. 24 jersey retired by George Washington on Sunday. They flew to New York for Right To Play’s Big Red Ball on Wall Street on Tuesday night.

“The whole goal of the wedding was to get [Taylor] to cry,” Meyers said at the Right to Play gala. “He didn’t cry. He was too excited.”

“I was close the entire time, but I was so happy,” Taylor said. “It was the most fun I have ever had. Although I was a little choked up, never got around to crying, which I’m pretty excited about.”

Wedding guests included current and retired bobsledders Kaillie Humphries and Shelley-Ann Brown of Canada and former Night Train member Steve Mesler in addition to Fenlator.

Humphries is the two-time reigning Olympic champion and Meyers’ chief competition. Humphries beat Meyers by one point for the World Cup title last season and then overtook Meyers on the fourth and final run in Sochi for gold.

Yet they remain friends and training partners and kept their pre-Olympic pact to see each other again at Meyers’ wedding. Meyers joked about people marveling at Humphries at the ceremony last week.

“Everybody was like, ‘Oh my gosh, there’s a gold medalist,'” she said, smiling. “I was like, what am I, chopped liver at my own wedding? We’re great friends. It was awesome to have her there and awesome to feed her some cake.”

source: AP
Nic Taylor proposes to Elana Meyers at the 2013 World Championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland. (AP)

One of their favorite gifts came from Meyers’ Olympic brakewoman, Lauryn Williams, who could not make it to the wedding because she was in Rome (Italy, not Georgia).

“She sent us the most amazing blender in the world,” Taylor said.

Though Williams has said her competitive career is all but done, Meyers still hopes to convince her to come back next season.

“I think I can get one more year out of her,” Meyers said. “I think another four is a stretch, but I’m going to try everything I can.”

Meyers and Taylor’s first dance was to Justin Timberlake‘s “That Girl.” Taylor walked out to John Legend‘s “All of Me.” Meyers walked out to Bruno Mars‘ “Marry You.”

They donated to charities for each other as wedding gifts. Meyers gave to the International Humane Society, part of a running joke between the couple about Taylor wanting to adopt Sochi stray dogs. Taylor gave to Right to Play.

What’s next for the married couple? Meyers trains and Taylor coaches at the World Athletics Center in Arizona. Meyers has been testing her skills in the new Olympic sport of rugby sevens. She was on the U.S. team that traveled to China earlier this month.

“It was an experience, to say the least,” Meyers said. “I’m definitely not used to that level of cardio. It was different because it was a whole different side of international sport that I’m not accustomed to. It was interesting to see into their world, see what they go through and see what it’s like on a team sports level.”

She hopes to be named to the team for a tournament in Amsterdam in May, but come next fall, bobsled will again be the focus. She’s not ruling out a bid for the 2016 Olympics, but the fact that the primary rugby season runs concurrent with bobsled in the winter doesn’t help.

“When we first started, it was like, oh yeah, we could do this in the Olympics, but I didn’t realize how much the seasons overlap,” Meyers said. “I thought rugby was a summer sport.”

Taylor and Meyers first interacted over a phone call in 2011, as told by USA Today in a story last year.

Taylor had been a track athlete at Cal State Northridge and a decathlon coach at UCLA when he decided to give bobsled a try in 2011. After he lost some paperwork, he called the sport’s national governing body with questions. Meyers, who was interning with the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, answered the phone.

“I ended up staying on the phone with her for the rest of the day. It was the strangest thing,” Taylor said. “I wasn’t sure what she looked like or who she was at all.”

He said he knew he wanted to marry Meyers “the first time I talked to her.” That level of excitement was apparent at the wedding.

“Nic’s face when Elana turned the corner to walk out,” Fenlator said. “He was so antsy. He kept going forward, and the priest is like, ‘Nic, hold on, her dad has to give her away. Just wait, one second.’ You could tell at the moment, he felt like, I’ve lived. This is it.”

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45-year-old speed skater eyes record 7th Olympics

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When German speed skater Claudia Pechstein debuted at the Winter Olympics in 1992, she won a bronze medal in the 5000m in 7 minutes, 39.80 seconds.

On Sunday, Pechstein won a World Cup 5000m in 6:56.60, a track record in Stavanger, Norway.

Pechstein, now 45 years old, notched her first World Cup victory in three years.

“It’s unbelievable to be on top at my age,” she said, according to the International Skating Union. “Some of the other athletes could be my daughters.”

She extended her record as the oldest skater to win a World Cup race (the second-oldest was barely 38 years old at the time, according to SchaatsStatistieken.nl).

And come February, it looks like she’ll be the first woman to compete in seven Winter Olympics (she has not ruled out a bid for 2022, either).

She can become the oldest Winter Olympic medalist in an individual event and the first person to win the same individual Winter Olympic event four times (she won the 5000m in 1994, 1998 and 2002).

Four women have competed in eight Summer Olympics. Pechstein currently shares the record of six Winter Games appearances by a woman with two others, according to Olympic historians.

The overall record of seven appearances is shared by Russian luger Albert Demtschenko and Japanese ski jumper Noriaki Kasai. Demtschenko retired after Sochi, while the 45-year-old Kasai looks likely for an eighth Olympics after placing 15th in last season’s World Cup standings.

Pechstein owns nine Olympic medals, one shy of the female Winter Games record shared by cross-country skiers Marit Bjoergen of Norway, Raisa Smetanina of Russia and Stefania Belmondo of Italy.

The latter two are retired, but the 37-year-old Bjoergen was the world’s best skier last season after taking time off to have a baby.

Bjoergen is likely to add multiple medals in PyeongChang, perhaps challenging countryman Ole Einar Bjoerndalen‘s Winter Olympic record 13 medals (Bjoerndalen is also still active, complicating matters).

Back to Pechstein.

She is perhaps best known for missing the 2010 Olympics due to a two-year blood doping ban (not for failing a test, but for irregular biological passport levels). She has denied doping and fought the ban in courts for several years after it ended in 2011.

Her path to 5000m gold in PyeongChang would almost surely have to go through Czech Martina Sablikova, who has won the last 11 Olympic or world titles.

Sablikova was third in Sunday’s race, reportedly hampered by a back injury. She relegated Pechstein to silver at last season’s world championships by 1.55 seconds at the PyeongChang Olympic venue.

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Emma Coburn, Sam Kendricks win USATF Athlete of the Year awards

Emma Coburn, Sam Kendricks
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Emma Coburn and Sam Kendricks followed Rio Olympic bronze medals with their first world titles in August. And now, they both won USATF Athlete of the Year honors.

Coburn, 27, took the female award named after Jackie Joyner-Kersee after becoming the first American woman to bag 3000m steeplechase gold at the Olympics or worlds.

Coburn led an emotional U.S. one-two with Courtney Frerichs in London on Aug. 11 (video here). She broke the American record (by five seconds) and the world championships record by winning in 9:02.58.

Kendricks, 25, captured the Jesse Owens Award after an undefeated season that included the first Olympic or world pole vault title by an American man in 10 years.

The first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve won all 17 of his competitions in 2017, clearing six meters for the first time. No American had eclipsed that barrier since 2008.

Coburn and Kendricks won the USATF honors over the likes of fellow world champions Justin Gatlin and Tori Bowie (100m), Christian Taylor (triple jump), Phyllis Francis (400m), Kori Carter (400m hurdles) and Brittney Reese (long jump). Plus Shalane Flanagan and Galen Rupp, who each won World Marathon Majors this fall.

Rio gold medalists Michelle Carter (shot put) and Matthew Centrowitz (1500m) won the awards last year.

Coburn is the first steeplechaser to take home a USATF Athlete of the Year award. They’ve been handed out since 1981.

Kendricks joined 2000 Olympic champion Stacy Dragila as the only pole vaulters to earn the honor.

More from USATF on the awards here.

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