Since I met the majority of the women’s team while in Lake Placid, I have respected their tenacious drive for the top. Not just in the field of bobsled, but in life as well. When they strive for excellence, they achieve it. One is a lawyer, other’s have master’s degree’s such as a MBA, others are working on Master’s degree’s, some are working and some are married. Life is full for these dedicated athlete. Today is all about one thing… to win. 100% effort put in by all to make this race happen. The athletes competing, the athletes on pit crew, coaches, Richard making sleds ready, med staff and the men’s team who are there to support. I watch the fun loving personalities turn into fierce competitors with all of their being.
The women have been doing well all season. With the exception of the crashes in Germany, the women were fine tuned and dialed in. Today would prove to be no exception. The teams today consisted Elana Meyers-Taylor and Cherrelle Garrett, Jamie Grubel-Poser and Lauryn Williams, Jazmine Fenlator and Natalie DeRatt.
Since this is the first live race that I get to see for bobsled, I am taking in the environment. It is European championships as well as a world cup stop. Germany is always a power house. With bobsled being such a popular sport in Europe, The team transportation vans from Germany have the names and pictures of the sled team. Team Humphries from Canada is the Gold medalist in 2014 in Sochi Olympic games and always a fierce competitor as well to watch for.The atmosphere is very different from trainings days. Bobsled is different then skeleton and women are different the the men as well.
As the teams prepare for the race you will see each pilot do “the dance” I called it. Most have their ear buds in so when I first saw it I thought that they were grooving to some music. Then after watching, I realize that each pilot has the track memorized and they are driving the course mentally and moving with each turn and coordination what they do with their hands. Some are very technical and very matter of fact and some just are so fluid and the reason I called it “the dance”. One that I always enjoyed watching was Jazmine Fenlator as she had beautiful rhythm and fluidity. I told her that I needed to tape it and then set it to music. (Side note, the USBSF facebook page had a weekly pole about who was the best dancer and I instantly thought to Jazmine and voted for her!). The breakwomen prepared in different ways. From observation they have three roles: 1) Explosive push at the start 2) Fold in half and stay down to minimize and wind resistance 3) know the track curves and pull on the breaks when it is time. Now, I know they have to work with the track as well to move in unison with the pilot and the sled around every curve, but what I saw them prep for most was the push start.
With regards to what I do on race day varies. Most have sought out treatment through the week and do not want much on race day. Others are injured or recovering from injuries and we are working to the best of our abilities to get them so they can have the best race of their life(or so we hope). Many are okay before the first race and then the track puts a beating on their bodies and we work on them between the two races. It is so individualized with each of the athletes. Once Rick and I check in with all the athletes and make sure their needs are taken care of, we can walk around check out what is going on outside. All of the friendly interaction between the Nations now turns to little talk and keeping secrets about sleds.
It is now race time. From what I recall, who goes first is based upon drawing for position. TV crews are lined up, commentators are ready to go, monitors and screens are in place for the coaches who are at the start and at the finish, a very large screen in places in front of the spectator platform (no seats). Because our women’s team is ranked high this year, It is exciting as they are off relatively quick. Each of our two women teams have a slightly different send off that they do before they load on the block to push.
I love watching the intensity of Jamie Grubel Poser. Her eyes become very dark in contrast to her long blond hair. She has this slight tip of her head that if you were standing in front of her and she was looking at you, you would be scared. She means business and she owns this business. Nothing will get in her way. She gets into position and shuts her visor on her helmet and you know that she will rock this course. Her break athlete for this race is Lauryn Williams, 2 x summer Olympics medalist in track and 1 x winter Olympic medalist and track star. They move so effortlessly in unison.
Jazmine Fenlator walks up with a very cool demeanor and confidence, She’s got this. She owns this track, there is nothing besides her and her sled and the ice. Her visor clicks shut and she is off. Natalie DeRatt is her break athlete. Natalie is small and mighty. The effervescent smile that is permanently on her face turns into intense focus of fast twitch muscles for a dynamic start.
Elana Meyers Taylor is different yet. No visor for her, she switched to bright green goggles with iridescent lenses earlier this season and has liked the switch. Elana is very methodical in her approach. You can just see the competitiveness come off her yet in a humble way. She places her goggles and gives her count to Cherrelle Garrett and they are off. Cherrelle Garrett, a bubbly personality who is social yet accomplished track athlete that can tune out all around her and produce a big fast effective push.
Each USA team made their way down the track for a 1st run. Elana managed to get a track record! Jamie and Jaz were right there in the top as well. Between the runs was busy for Rick and I both as we had a few situations to manage. I
was so thankful for Rick and his skills too as we both complimented each other and divided and conquered to care for each of the athletes needing attention. It was one hectic hour before the second run of the race. As we got closer to the second run I did a lot of praying too for each of the athletes. Now everyone had there ranking and race order goes in reverse. This meant we had a bit more time with our athletes and they were all ranked in the top 5.
Now with the second heat upon us, I was just in awe at these ladies. They were overcoming some physical obstacles that they mentally blocked out. What would side line the average person, these women have the mental toughness and focus that I don’t even know what to compare it to. Each one with a different set of circumstances to overcome. They are such finely tuned elite level athletes that they were able to show up at the start, complete their pre start ritual, get into their zone and work their tails off for just under a minute. I really cannot even describe the respect I have for these women and what they did that day.
Elana managed to get another track record and win it all that day. Jamie was a close second behind her. Team Humphries from Canada pulled out a third and Jazmine managed to pick off a few of the German’s to take 4th. It was a joyous day. The Winner Circle events happened in Curve 16. Rick and I decided to walk down and partake in with occasion with our winner’s. What a sight to see such big smiles celebrating the success of Team USA. Wonderful to hear our National Anthem and see the pride in Team USA. This was a great introduction to USA Bobsled!
After the race, it is back to the hotel and an hour off before getting back to work on the men’s bobsled team and Women’s skeleton ready for the next two days.