KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – Lauryn Williams thought about quitting bobsledding after her very first ride four months ago.
She stuck around, and another Olympic medal may be her reward.
Williams’ improbable story grew Saturday when she was selected to push the USA-1 sled driven by Elana Meyers at the Sochi Olympics. That decision legitimizes her chance of becoming only the second American to win gold in two sports at the summer and winter games, after she helped the U.S. win the 4×100-meter relay at the London Games two years ago.
“Incredible,” U.S. Coach Todd Hays said after the decisions were made. “I would have bet anybody any amount of money that no person could walk on this team as a rookie and make the team, let alone actually be in USA-1. But you look at Lauryn’s resume and it tells you what type of athlete she is. She’s one of the greatest U.S. sprinters of all time, incredibly talented, incredibly powerful with an incredible work ethic.”
Lolo Jones, another track Olympian-turned-bobsledder, and the person who recruited Williams to sliding, will push the USA-3 sled driven by Jazmine Fenlator of Wayne, N.J. In USA-2, it’s Jamie Greubel of Newtown, Pa. driving with brakeman Aja Evans of Chicago.
Jones, of Des Moines, Iowa, and Williams, of Rochester, Pa., are becoming the ninth and 10th Americans to compete in both the summer and winter Olympics.
“I came here to help this team, and wherever the coaches think is the best place for me to help is where I’m going to be,” Williams said before the pairings were known. “And I’m going to push as hard as I can. … I’m excited. I love everyone on this team and I’m going to do the best job that I can.”
Meyers, from Douglasville, Ga., drove to either gold or silver medals in seven of the eight World Cup races this season, finishing one point behind Kaillie Humphries of Canada in the season long standings. Meyers and Williams were paired together once, earning silver.
Greubel and Evans also raced together once this season, finishing fourth. Fenlator was with Jones – who missed medals in the hurdles at Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012 – three times in World Cup races this winter, with seventh being their top finish.
“We have three great brakemen. That’s the best-case scenario,” Meyers said. “Regardless of who’s in my sled, I’m going to have a great push, so that’s a very comforting feeling going in.”
The American women came into the season talking about sweeping the podium, something the U.S. has done only twice in any event at the Winter Olympics, claiming gold, silver and bronze in men’s figure skating in 1956, then again in a men’s snowboard event in 2002.
It’s not totally farfetched. In the World Cup standings, Greubel finished third, Fenlator was seventh, and the U.S. swept one podium – a gold for Meyers and a two-way tie between Greubel and Fenlator for silver – in a World Cup race at Park City earlier this season.
“We’re going to go for it,” Meyers said. “I think we have the brakemen, we have the equipment and now it’s just figuring out this track.”
The men’s two-man pairings also were revealed Saturday, with Steve Langton tabbed to push the USA-1 two-man sled driven by Steven Holcomb. Holcomb and Langton won a world title together in 2012.
The other two-man pairings for the U.S. include Nick Cunningham driving with Dallas Robinson, along with Cory Butner driving with brakeman Chris Fogt.
None of those picks were particularly surprising.
Williams being in USA-1 for the women’s race, that one will surely raise eyebrows. She was going to be a financial planner a few months ago before deciding almost on a whim to go to Lake Placid, N.Y. and see what bobsledding was all about.
It’s now within the realm of possibility that she joins Eddie Eagan – who won gold as a bobsledder at the 1920 Winter Olympics, then as a boxer at the Summer Olympics that same year – on one of the most elite Olympic lists.
“You combine that everything she is together,” Hays said, “and you find a girl who can make herself great at just about anything.”.