SOCHI, Russia >> Elana Meyers and Jamie Greubel have weddings to plan. Lauryn Williams has a life to start. Aja Evans is ready to make a run at the Rio de Janeiro Games.
Even after winning Olympic medals, it didn’t take long for U.S. women’s bobsledders to turn toward the future.
The foursome of medalists sat side-by-side for possibly one of the final times Thursday, a day after American sleds grabbed silver and bronze at the Sochi Games. Meyers and Williams were one-tenth of a second off the time that would have won them gold; Greubel and Evans were a full second off the winning pace, but well ahead of all other challengers for bronze.
“We are, truly, a team to beat,” Meyers said.
The trick now is finding a way to stay in that category. And really, that shouldn’t be too difficult.
All three Olympic team drivers — Meyers, Greubel and Jazmine Fenlator — plan to be back, and with the Americans still figuring out how to squeeze all the possible speed from their new BMW-made sleds, each figures to be better. Plus, it’s almost certain that some pushers in the U.S. pipeline will enroll in driving school at Lake Placid, N.Y. next month.
What’s unclear is who will be pushing sleds in the next World Cup season.
Lolo Jones said earlier in these Olympics that while she’s still very much planning to go back to her life as a hurdler with an eye on the Rio Games, she could easily see herself resuming her brakeman duties next winter. That would suggest there’s at least a chance she sticks around for four more years.
Williams is likely gone, since she was ready to start a “real” life as a certified financial planner last year when she retired from competitive track and field after three Olympics and two medals there. And now that she’s one of five people to medal in different sports at the Summer and Winter Games, there wouldn’t figure to be much left for her to chase.
“The last six months have been amazing,” Williams said of her brief and meteoric time in bobsledding. “And to have a silver and gold, 2004 and 2014, it’s a dream come true — even though I didn’t even get the opportunity to dream it. Life is always taking me by surprise.”
Evans didn’t know how much she would enjoy bobsledding when she tried it two years ago. Now she’s an Olympic medalist, and may follow in Jones’ path of trying to be a track and field athlete as well as a bobsledder.
Evans plans to relocate to the West coast soon, set to resume training as a thrower in field events, just as she was in college. That could mean she takes a break from sliding, though she still is planning to vie for a spot on the 2018 Olympic team, and that quest would not be thwarted if she winds up missing a season of pushing.
“When we were finishing our race and everything was settling, I was like, ‘So when does track practice start?’ I’m serious about it and I’m really excited about it,” Evans said. “This is a good opportunity for me. I feel like I have enough time to advance and take my time and get on that elite level in track and field. I’m so much stronger mentally and physically.”
That leaves the drivers, who helped the U.S. make history with two medals at these games.
Meyers is getting married this year, and Greubel plans to do the same. Meyers has made tons of sacrifices to get ready for her nuptials, and is planning a relatively simple day with family and friends — and in at least one case, opponents. Canada’s Kaillie Humphries, who edged Meyers for the gold medal, is on the guest list.
“I am going to make sure she has lots of cake,” said Meyers, who has the dress and the cake picked out and will appear on a reality show later this year in the runup to the wedding.
Greubel thinks the sky is the limit for the Americans now. Most of the other drivers the U.S. raced against at the Sochi Games have far more experience. In some cases, certain drivers on the circuit this year have more years of experience than all three U.S. pilots combined.
“I really think we should be proud of what we’ve accomplished in such little time,” Greubel said. “To be able to win these Olympic medals against women who have been driving for two quads, three quads, I think it’s something we should be proud of.”