When the opening ceremonies for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia air Friday night on NBC, Douglas County native Elana Meyers will be in the athletes’ parade representing the United States.
Meyers is the top driver for the U.S. Women’s Bobsledding Team. After winning bronze in the 2010 Olympics as a brakeman, Meyers has been focused for the past four years on making it back to the Olympics and bringing home the gold medal this time.
The Olympic women’s bobsledding competition is set to take place Feb. 18-19. The Olympics officially began Thursday and will run through Feb. 23.
Meyers grew up in Douglasville, attending Chestnut Log Middle School and Lithia Springs High School, where she was a multi-sport standout.
Jennifer Baggett, now the athletic director and assistant principal at Chapel Hill High School, coached Meyers on the varsity basketball team at Lithia Springs in the late 1990s.
Baggett said she remembers the first day Meyers walked into the gym at Lithia. Baggett said Meyers came in during summer practice and announced she was there to play basketball.
Meyers also played softball at Lithia, a sport she went on to play collegiately at Georgia Washington University.
“You could tell as a student she was definitely goal oriented,” Baggett said. “She was mature for her age. She worked hard – had great work ethic for her age. She had what it takes to be where she is today.”
Meyers’ dad, former Atlanta Falcons running back Eddie Meyers, said that work ethic Baggett saw so many years ago is the key reason Elana is competing in her second Olympics.
“She takes it to the next level,” said Eddie Meyers. “She focuses on what she’s trying to achieve. Even though she’s at a top level, she continues to make little improvements to herself, to her skills. A lot of athletes really don’t do that. They look at themselves and say, ‘Oh, I had a great year and Ok so I’ll just do what I did.’ If you continue to do what you did, how to do you expect to get any better?”
Eddie Meyers said Tiger Woods is another athlete who is always looking for ways to get better.
“He’s got a great swing, but he improves, right?” Eddie Meyers said. “And that’s what happens with her.”
Elana can only practice bobsledding from October to March or April because it’s got to be cold enough to keep ice on the bobsled track.
During the summer, Elana comes home to Douglasville and continues to work to get stronger, quicker, faster and leaner, her dad said.
She often works out at the track at Chapel Hill High and has worked as substitute teacher there in the past.
In addition to her work ethic, Elana’s faith plays a big role in her success. She mentioned her church family at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in an interview with the Sentinel a few weeks ago.
“I think her faith keeps her grounded and she’s stronger than I think sometimes she realizes,” Eddie Meyers said. “She’s a very solid person and she’s a very giving and good person, and she’s not selfish in any way, shape or form. That’s partially due to her faith in God.”
Much has been made of the fact that Elana is from the South, but excels in a winter sport.
Eddie Meyers said after his career with the Falcons, he moved the family to Chicago for a few years, but decided to move back and settle in Douglasville because "we don't like cold weather."
He said Elana has had to adjust to the cold because the sport she's chosen requires it.
"It's less than one minute each race," said Eddie Meyers. "You might be cold for less than that. I say cold, but that's putting it mildly. You're freezing for a while because when a sled's going 80 to 90 miles an hour, that's a heck of a wind chill, a heck of a chill. Those sleds do not come with heaters."