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Elana Meyers Taylor, like her NFL father, motivated by years of waiting

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Elana Meyers Taylor is nearing the end of a four-year wait to make up for a mistake that cost her Olympic gold in Sochi.

Her father waited longer — six years — to play in an NFL regular-season game. It never happened.

As Meyers Taylor lines up to make her third Olympic bobsled team, her dad helps her train. By sitting in the driver seat of black Kia Sportage as his daughter pushes the 3,500-pound SUV down a driveway.

Eddie Meyers set school rushing records at Navy in the early 1980s and was destined for the NFL. Except he first had to serve six years of military service.

For six straight summers from 1982-87, Meyers used his Marine leave to join the Atlanta Falcons training camp.

“I’m a hell of a lot hungrier now than I was when I finished at the Academy in 1982,” Meyers said in 1986, according to the Los Angeles Times. “I’ve been waiting a long time. It’s been driving me crazy for five years.”

He played exhibition games — 23 carries, 108 yards, one touchdown in total, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution — but never in the regular season. Dreams deferred. Duty called.

“I wrote up several different types of appeals,” Meyers, who became a regional president of PNC Bank in Atlanta, told NBC News. “The Marine Corps just would not allow it.”

Once the six years were up, Meyers suffered a toe injury in the 1987 preseason and was later released.

“I know it’s a sore subject for him, so he doesn’t bring it up very often,” Meyers Taylor said.

In 2006, the Meyers were watching the Torino Winter Games when Elana’s mother suggested she try bobsled.

At the time, Elana was a college softball player with Olympic aspirations. She wouldn’t make the team for 2008, which would be softball’s last time on the Olympic program (until 2020, we learned last year).

But she had the short, explosive build like her father. Perfect for pushing Kia Sportages. Or bobsleds. Her dad enlisted one of his former teammates, Billy “White Shoes” Johnson, to be her fitness coach.

“My father’s NFL dreams never really felt like motivation to me, but it was something to aspire to,” Meyers Taylor said. “He was such a great athlete, the least I could do is try and use my athletic talent to represent my country in a different way. He represented as a Marine. Maybe I could do something to represent as an athlete.”

Meyers Taylor was a push athlete for Erin Pac at Vancouver 2010 and took bronze. She transitioned to driving a bobsled after that and was leading the Sochi Olympic event after three of four runs.

But Meyers Taylor made a mistake out of the second corner and skid in her final run. She fell to silver, one tenth of a second behind Canadian Kaillie Humphries, her training partner and the 2010 Olympic champion.

“As I go on with my career, even if I win a gold medal I’m sure that I won’t forget the pain I feel right now,” Meyers Taylor blogged from Sochi, titled “Silver Lining,” “but if I am fortunate enough to win a gold medal, I know it will be because of this moment.”

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MORE: U.S. bobsledders remember Steven Holcomb as Olympic season starts

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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Jana Novotna, Wimbledon champ and Olympic medalist, dies at 49

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PRAGUE (AP) — Jana Novotna, who won the hearts of the tennis world when she sobbed on the shoulder of a member of the British royal family after a heartbreaking loss in the Wimbledon final, has died at the age of 49.

The WTA announced Novotna’s death on Monday, saying she died Sunday in her native Czech Republic following a long battle with cancer.

Novotna died “peacefully, surrounded by her family,” the women’s tennis body said.

Her family confirmed her death to the Czech Republic’s CTK news agency. No details were given.

Martina Navratilova, the tennis great who was also born in what was then Czechoslovakia, tweeted: “The tennis world is so sad about the passing of Jana Novotna. I am gutted and beyond words. Jana was a true friend and an amazing woman.”

Novotna won her only Grand Slam singles title at Wimbledon in 1998, eventually triumphing after two losses in the final at the All England Lawn Tennis Club in 1993 and 1997.

She added three Olympic tennis medals — singles bronze at Altanta 1996 (knocking out top seed Monica Seles) and doubles silver in 1988 and 1996 with Helena Sukova.

She also lost in the 1991 Australian Open final.

While she finally captured the Grand Slam singles title she longed for in 1998, she won over the Wimbledon crowd five years earlier after wasting a big lead in the decisive set in a tough three-set loss to Steffi Graf.

Unable to hide her disappointment, Novotna cried on the shoulder of Britain’s Duchess of Kent at the prize giving ceremony and was gently comforted by the royal, who told her: “I know you will win it one day, don’t worry.”

Novotna ultimately had her moment five years later when she beat Nathalie Tauziat in straight sets to win Wimbledon. At the time, she was the oldest first-time winner of a Grand Slam singles title at age 29.

There wear tears again from Novotna, this time of joy, and the Duchess of Kent was present again to congratulate her.

“She was a true champion in all senses of the word, and her 1998 triumph will live long in the memory,” Wimbledon organizers the All England Club said in tribute to Novotna. “The thoughts of all those at Wimbledon are with her family and friends.”

Fellow Czech and four-time Grand Slam champion Hana Mandlikova, who coached Novotna for her Wimbledon win, said: “It’s hard to find words. Jana was a great girl and I’m happy that she won Wimbledon after all. It’s so sad when someone so young dies.”

During a 14-year professional career, Novotna won 24 singles titles and reached a career-high No. 2 in the singles rankings in 1997. She was a prolific and top-ranked doubles player, collecting 16 slam titles in doubles and mixed doubles.

She also won the Fed Cup with her country in 1988. Novotna was inducted into tennis’ Hall of Fame in 2005.

Even after retiring in 1999, Novotna was desperate to stay involved in tennis and became a commentator and coach.

“I’m dependent on tennis,” she said in an interview two years ago. “A day without it would be terrible.”

Members of the current Czech Fed Cup team said Novotna “supported us in the stands any time she could be there. We’ll miss her.”

“Jana was an inspiration both on and off court to anyone who had the opportunity to know her,” WTA chief executive Steve Simon said. “Her star will always shine brightly in the history of the WTA.”