Elana Meyers Taylor says she’s starting to become herself again. Good timing, since the world championships start this weekend.
Meyers Taylor is the top U.S. gold-medal hope at bobsled and skeleton worlds in Koenigssee, Germany. Races will stream live on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app, beginning with first two women’s bobsled runs Friday at 8:15 a.m. ET.
The two-time Olympic medalist Meyers Taylor is riding a four-race winning streak on the World Cup, but it’s taken plenty of physical and mental pain to get here. She suffered a concussion in a race crash in Koenigssee on Jan. 26, 2015, with the after-effects lasting into the 2015-16 season, causing her to miss four races.
This season, Meyers Taylor has competed from the start. But she crashed in the season-opening race in Whistler, B.C., and dealt with back pain for most of the last three months. On top of everything, she struggled with the death of one of her grandfathers in early January.
Meyers Taylor teams this weekend with second-year push athlete Kehri Jones, who ejected out of the back of the sled in that Whistler crash.
Worlds were moved from Sochi, Russia, to Koenigssee two months ago amid the Russian doping scandal. Meyers Taylor showed her Koenigssee crash from two years ago was behind her when she won a World Cup race on the track in January.
“I’m confident on this track,” she said earlier this week. “The last time I was here, I was having trouble in the same spot where I had my crash. A little bit of hesitation, a little bit of problems there. Now, everything seems to be clicking down there.”
Meyers Taylor’s goal every season (outside of the Olympics, which she has yet to win) is to sweep the World Cup and world championships titles. That’s exactly what she did in 2015, but Meyers Taylor was third at worlds last season and missed half of the World Cup races due to that concussion.
She attributes recent success to a change in philosophy given the past two years.
“I’ve gotten a different perspective on bobsled,” Meyers Taylor said. “Every day I go out there, I’m just happy to be there and happy to be sliding. I’ve really taken the approach this year to focus on my driving and not worry about winning or losing races. Wins will come if I drive well.”
Her biggest challengers at worlds will come from her longtime top rivals, Canadian Kaillie Humphries and American Jamie Greubel Poser, who joined Meyers Taylor on the Sochi podium. Meyers Taylor led after the first three of four runs at the Olympics before falling behind Humphries in the finale.
The Olympics and worlds are the only events with a four-run format. Humphries leads this season’s World Cup standings through seven of eight races, but Meyers Taylor still believes she’s the woman to beat in Koenigssee.
“I’d be stupid if I didn’t say myself,” she said.
After Koenigssee, the world’s top sliders head to PyeongChang for training on the Olympic track plus the final World Cup of the season. Meyers Taylor, 32, expects to compete beyond 2018, “until the wheels fall off,” but also wants to start a family with her husband.
All but one of the push athletes on the national team were recruited to the sport by Meyers Taylor, making her perhaps the most valuable person in the entire American program.
“It’s called desperation,” she said. “I know that world championships and PyeongChang is going to come down to hundredths of a second. I needed every hundredth of a second I could from a brakeman standpoint. I make it a point to go out there and find my own athletes. If I want something to happen, I’ve got to make sure to do it myself. I can’t leave it up to somebody randomly finding bobsled.”
Jones, whom Meyers Taylor calls her “spark plug,” came over in 2015 after sprinting at Baylor University.
Meyers Taylor was talking with Baylor’s strength-and-conditioning and track-and-field coaches about potential bobsled converts when Jones’ name came up in an email. Jones’ diminutive size (5 feet, 130 pounds) made her valuable in bobsled, where sled weight maximums have been reduced in the last two years.
A look at the other disciplines at worlds:
German sleds have won 12 of the last 14 two- or four-man world titles on German tracks. The host nation has three drivers capable of taking gold this year — Francesco Friedrich, Johannes Lochner and Nico Walther.
In the two-man, Friedrich is favored to join Italian legend Eugenio Monti as the only drivers to win four straight world titles in any event. He has won four of the seven World Cup races this season after coming back to beat Lochner for his third straight world title last year.
In the four-man, Lochner has won three of the seven races this season, his first full-time on the World Cup circuit. At the race in Koenigssee last month, Lochner and Walther went one-two.
If anybody is to upset the Germans, it may be 2010 Olympic four-man champion Steven Holcomb. The American tied Friedrich for second at the World Cup two-man in Koenigssee last month — behind Lochner — and was fourth in the four-man. He also finished third and sixth in the races at the 2011 Worlds in Koenigssee. These are expected to be the final worlds for the 36-year-old Holcomb.
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Russian Aleksandr Tretiyakov and Latvian Martins Dukurs enter as co-favorites, having alternated World Cup wins in Koenigssee the last four years and put up strong seasons to date. Tretiyakov topped Dukurs for the Olympic title in Sochi, while Dukurs relegated Tretiyakov to silver at the last two worlds.
Tretiyakov was banned for nine days in December and January after being implicated in the McLaren report on Russian doping leading up to and during Sochi, but the sanction was lifted due to a lack of evidence.
South Korean Yun Sung-Bin, a 2016 World Championships and World Cup runner-up (sharing silver at the former with Tretiyakov), has said he will skip worlds to get more training on the 2018 Olympic track in PyeongChang. That increases the medal chances for Sochi Olympic bronze medalist Matthew Antoine, but the American placed seventh, 10th and 15th in his last three Koenigssee outings.
Despite its sliding-sports dominance, Germany has never won an Olympic skeleton title. That could change next year. Jacqueline Loelling and Tina Hermann have been the two best women’s sliders over the past two years. At ages 22 and 24, they have succeeded Anja Huber and Marion Thees in the German program.
Loelling leads the World Cup standings and won the race in Koenigssee last month. Last season, Hermann swept the World Cup and World Championships titles, plus won both races in Koenigssee.
Olympic champion Lizzy Yarnold of Great Britain returned this season after a one-year break but has one podium finish in six World Cup starts. Likewise, the U.S. women have combined for one World Cup podium, a disappointment after Annie O’Shea finished fourth in last season’s World Cup standings.Follow @nzaccardi
|Friday, 2/17||8:15 a.m.||Women’s Bobsled Run 1||Streaming|
|Friday, 2/17||10 a.m.||Women’s Bobsled Run 2||Streaming|
|Friday, 2/17||3 p.m.||Women’s Bobsled Run 1-2||Universal HD|
|Saturday, 2/18||4:30 a.m.||Two-Man Bobsled Run 1||Streaming|
|Saturday, 2/18||6 a.m.||Two-Man Bobsled Run 2||Streaming|
|Saturday, 2/18||9:15 a.m.||Women’s Bobsled Run 3||Streaming|
|Saturday, 2/18||10:45 a.m.||Women’s Bobsled Run 4||Streaming|
|Saturday, 2/18||4 p.m.||Two-Man Bobsled Run 1-2||Universal HD|
|Saturday, 2/18||5 p.m.||Women’s Bobsled Run 3-4||Universal HD|
|Sunday, 2/19||4:30 a.m.||Two-Man Bobsled Run 3||Streaming|
|Sunday, 2/19||6 a.m.||Two-Man Bobsled Run 4||Streaming|
|Sunday, 2/19||9 a.m.||Team Event||Streaming|
|Sunday, 2/19||5 p.m.||Two-Man Bobsled Run 3-4||NBCSN|
|Sunday, 2/19||8:30 p.m.||Team Event||Universal HD|
|Friday, 2/24||5 a.m.||Men’s Skeleton Run 1||Streaming|
|Friday, 2/24||7 a.m.||Men’s Skeleton Run 2||Streaming|
|Friday, 2/24||9 a.m.||Women’s Skeleton Run 1||Streaming|
|Friday, 2/24||11 a.m.||Women’s Skeleton Run 2||Streaming|
|Friday, 2/24||4 p.m.||Men’s Skeleton Run 1-2||Universal HD|
|Friday, 2/24||5 p.m.||Women’s Skeleton Run 1-2||Universal HD|
|Saturday, 2/25||2:30 a.m.||Women’s Skeleton Run 3||Streaming|
|Saturday, 2/25||4:30 a.m.||Women’s Skeleton Run 4||Streaming|
|Saturday, 2/25||7:30 a.m.||Four-Man Bobsled Run 1||Streaming|
|Saturday, 2/25||9:15 a.m.||Four-Man Bobsled Run 2||Streaming|
|Saturday, 2/25||5 p.m.||Women’s Skeleton Run 3-4||Universal HD|
|Saturday, 2/25||6 p.m.||Four-Man Bobsled Run 1-2||Universal HD|
|Sunday 2/26||2:30 a.m.||Men’s Skeleton Run 3||Streaming|
|Sunday 2/26||4:30 a.m.||Men’s Skeleton Run 4||Streaming|
|Sunday 2/26||7:30 a.m.||Four-Man Bobsled Run 3||Streaming|
|Sunday 2/26||9:15 a.m.||Four-Man Bobsled Run 4||Streaming|
|Sunday 2/26||3:30 p.m.||Men’s Skeleton Run 3-4||NBCSN|
|Sunday 2/26||4:30 p.m.||Four-Man Bobsled Run 3-4||NBCSN|