Elana Meyers Taylor’s impossible: from the NICU back to the bobsled podium

Elana Meyers Taylor
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When Elana Meyers Taylor recently finished her first bobsled World Cup run in 22 months, she performed an unprecedented feat in a career that’s included three Olympic medals and two world titles in the two-woman event.

She stepped out of her sled and grabbed her 10-month-old son, Nico, from her husband, Nic Taylor.

Nic called it “the most special moment” of the first month of what they labeled “the traveling circus.” The Taylors flew to Europe around the New Year to rejoin the international bobsled circuit, traversing Germany, Switzerland and Austria.

When Meyers Taylor finished that comeback run in Winterberg, Germany, on Jan. 9, moving the 400-pound sled out of the finish area became a family affair.

“We passed Nico off like a baton,” said Nic, who is taking virtual chiropractic school classes, serves as his wife’s strength and conditioning coach and was an alternate for the U.S. men’s teams this season, in addition to the new dad duties. “The three members of our family all worked together to get something done, and it went off perfectly.”

Meyers Taylor competes in the world championships starting Friday in Altenberg, Germany (TV schedule here). It caps a year-long journey that began not on a bobsled track in Central Europe, but in WellStar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta, Georgia.

Nico was born between the third and fourth heats of the 2020 World Championships. Meyers Taylor, who took the entire 2019-20 season off, was in labor for two days, induced three weeks early, before undergoing an emergency C-section.

On Nico’s birthday, Feb. 22, doctors told the Taylors they suspected he had Down syndrome. Two days later, Meyers Taylor was in the neonatal intensive care unit — Nico spent his first eight days there — when it was confirmed. Nico also had profound bilateral sensorineural hearing loss and wears hearing aids.

“From the moment we laid eyes on him, of course we fell in love with him,” she said. “It didn’t even matter what diagnosis he had.”

The Taylors expected to have the proverbial village to help raise Nico. But all that changed between the time Meyers Taylor went into labor and shortly after they left Kennestone, where Georgia’s first coronavirus death was reported March 12.

“When the world shut down, that really limited who was able to come and give us the help,” she said.

Meyers Taylor, while in the NICU, had a distinct thought that returning to bobsled would be impossible, but she forged on later that spring, training in her garage. Though the pandemic brought restrictions, it also allowed her husband to travel with her when his classes went online.

“I couldn’t imagine him not being on tour with us,” she said. “He’s been the rock that’s holding us together.”

Nic, who can be seen trackside with Nico strapped to his chest, demurred.

“She does all the heavy lifting in our family,” he said. “She is literally the keystone. Without her, things would fall apart completely and instantly.”

Meyers Taylor, who for years recruited U.S. athletes from other sports to bobsled, leaned on other Team USA moms.

She exchanged messages with hockey twins Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and Monique Lamoureux-Morando and diver Laura Wilkinson. She hired a core specialist who came recommended by track stars Allyson Felix and Alysia Montaño.

One of the first people to reach out to Meyers Taylor post-childbirth was a woman who volunteered with GiGi’s Playhouse. She introduced the Taylors to the non-profit that offers free services for life to individuals with Down syndrome.

Meyers Taylor was so grateful for the support that she reciprocated, offering to wear a GiGi’s logo sticker on her race helmet. Other athletes now slide for GiGi’s, too, including in the sister sport of skeleton and Austrian male driver Benjamin Maier.

This season, it took Meyers Taylor just one week to return to the podium. She finished second or third in the last five races — and held Nico on the awards stand — but still seeks that first victory as a mom.

Nico doesn’t sleep through the night. “He likes to party, and he likes to make his own rules,” Nic joked in a 9 p.m. phone interview with Nico clearly wide awake.

Meyers Taylor’s back, which has given her problems as long as she can remember, has good days and bad days.

Yet in her second race this season, she and push athlete Sylvia Hoffman broke the track start record in St. Moritz, Switzerland, usually a sign that all is right physically.

“It’s weird to go into a world championships and not feel like you’re firing on all cylinders, but I’m getting there,” said Meyers Taylor, who estimated she’s at about 85% and climbing going into worlds in Altenberg, a track that doesn’t particularly suit her.

Meyers Taylor, an Olympic bronze medalist in 2010 and silver medalist in 2014, showed her ability to push through pain at the 2018 Olympics. She was in second place after three of four runs, trailing German Mariama Jamanka by .04 going into the finale, despite a torn Achilles.

Nic asked how she felt before the last run.

“She said, ‘I’m either going to tear it off the bone trying to win, or I’m not going to compete at all,’ and then she walked away,” Nic remembered. “I was like, oh my God, maybe that’s why I don’t have any Olympic medals. … I realized she’s different. And she’s special. And whatever that is, I don’t have it.”

She ended up with a second consecutive silver medal. One can imagine Meyers Taylor’s burning desire to make her fourth Olympic medal her first gold in Beijing in 2022. Her dream is to actually win two golds in Beijing — in the two-woman event and the new monobob race — but all the changes in the last year brought a new perspective.

“Win, lose or draw, I’ve got a gold medal waiting for me every night when I walk through the door,” she said.

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IOC gives more time to pick 2030 Olympic host, studies rotating Winter Games


The 2030 Winter Olympic host, expected to be Salt Lake City or Sapporo, Japan, is no longer targeted to be decided before next fall, the IOC said in announcing wider discussions into the future of the Winter Games, including the possibility of rotating the Games within a pool of hosts.

The IOC Future Host Commission was granted more time to study factors, including climate change, that could impact which cities and regions host future Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The 2030 Winter Games host is not expected to be decided before or at an IOC session next September or October.

Hosts have traditionally been chosen by IOC members vote seven years before the Games, though recent reforms allow flexibility on the process and timeline. For example, the 2024 and 2028 Games were awarded to Paris and Los Angeles in a historic double award in 2017. The 2032 Summer Games were awarded to Brisbane last year without a traditional bid race.

Italy hosts the 2026 Winter Games in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo.

There are three interested parties for the 2030 Winter Olympics, the IOC said Tuesday without naming them. Previously, Salt Lake City, Sapporo and Vancouver were confirmed as bids. Then in October, the British Columbia government said it would not support a Vancouver bid, a major setback, though organizers did not say that decision ended the bid. All three cities are attractive as past Winter Games hosts with existing venues.

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee officials have said Salt Lake City is a likelier candidate for 2034 than 2030, but could step in for 2030 if asked.

The future host commission outlined proposals for future Winter Olympics, which included rotating hosts within a pool of cities or regions and a requirement that hosts have an average minimum temperature below freezing (32 degrees) for snow competition venues at the time of the Games over a 10-year period.

The IOC Executive Board gave the commission more time to study the proposals and other factors impacting winter sports.

The IOC board also discussed and will continue to explore a potential double awarding of the 2030 and 2034 Winter Olympic hosts.

Also Tuesday, the IOC board said that Afghanistan participation in the 2024 Olympics will depend on making progress in safe access to sports for women and young girls in the country.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch urged the IOC to suspend Afghanistan until women and girls can play sport in the country.

In a press release, the IOC board expressed “serious concern and strongly condemned the latest restrictions imposed by the Afghan authorities on women and young girls in Afghanistan, which prevent them from practicing sport in the country.” It urged Afghanistan authorities to “take immediate action at the highest level to reverse such restrictions and ensure safe access to sport for women and young girls.”

The IOC board also announced that North Korea’s National Olympic Committee will be reinstated when its suspension is up at the end of the year.

In September 2021, the IOC banned the North Korean NOC through the end of 2022, including banning a North Korean delegation from participating in the Beijing Winter Games, after it chose not to participate in the Tokyo Games.

North Korea, formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, was the only one of 206 National Olympic Committees to withdraw from Tokyo. The country made its choice in late March 2021, citing a desire “to protect our athletes from the global health crisis caused by the malicious virus infection.”

The IOC said in September 2021 that it “provided reassurances for the holding of safe Games and offered constructive proposals to find an appropriate and tailor-made solution until the very last minute (including the provision of vaccines), which were systematically rejected by the PRK NOC.”

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Olympic champion Justine Dufour-Lapointe leaves moguls for another skiing discipline

Justine Dufour-Lapointe

Justine Dufour-Lapointe, the 2014 Olympic moguls champion, is leaving the event to compete in freeriding, a non-Olympic skiing discipline.

“After three Olympic cycles and 12 years on the World Cup circuit, I felt that I needed to find a new source of motivation and had to push my limits even more so I can reach my full potential as a skier,” the 28-year-old Montreal native said in a social media video, according to a translation from French. “Today, I am starting a new chapter in my career. … I want to perfect myself in another discipline. I want to connect with the mountain differently. Above all, I want to get out of my comfort zone in a way I’ve never done before.”

Dufour-Lapointe said she will compete on the Freeride World Tour, a series of judged competitions described as:

There‘s a start gate at the summit and a finish gate at the bottom. That’s it. Best run down wins. It truly is that simple. Think skiers and snowboarders choosing impossible-looking lines through cornices and cliff-faces and nasty couloirs. Think progressive: big jumps, mach-speed turns and full-on attack. Think entertaining.

Dufour-Lapointe has retired from moguls skiing, according to a Freeride World Tour press release, though she did not explicitly say that in social media posts Tuesday.

At the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Dufour-Lapointe denied American Hannah Kearney‘s bid to become the first freestyle skier to repeat as Olympic champion. Older sister Chloé took silver in a Canadian one-two.

Dufour-Lapointe also won the world title in 2015, then Olympic silver in 2018 behind Frenchwoman Perrine Laffont.

Chloé announced her retirement in September. A third Dufour-Lapointe Olympic moguls skier, Maxime, retired in 2018.

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