December 3, 2018
Greetings from Latvia!
Team USA has now been here for 9 days, and we have only slid once. At this point we were supposed to have 10+ trips down the track, but due to a track repair needed we have only slid one day for one run (in a training session you normally slide 2-3 times).
The cool part is, I slid that one run. It makes it special for me because I slid with the USA 1 Pilot Elana Meyers Taylor. Latvia has not held a World Cup race in about 12 years, so this was the very first time Elana has slid this track as well. There is not a lot Elana has not done in the sport of bobsleigh (3x Olympic medalist, 12-year veteran) so to be able to say I took her first trip in Latvia was special to me.
It is always nerve wracking to go down a new track for the first time, but it made it even scarier knowing my pilot had never slid this track either (which is very rare). During my warm up, I was extremely giggly because I was that scared and sometimes the only thing I can do when I feel that nervous is to laugh. My job as the brakeman is to make my pilot feel confident, so I had to put my nerves aside and put on my armor of faith to slide.
Standing at the line as the buzzer goes off for us to go, we do our hand shake and all I can think to say while my heart is pounding out of my chest is, “well, let’s go have some fun!”
Elana is one of the best pilots in the world which gave me confidence. If I’m going to slide a new track, I am thankful to have a top pilot take me (the slide went amazing by the way). The other thing that helps me to overcome this fear is to pray for others.
I start to pray for people who would give anything to walk, stand up, or get out of a hospital bed. This helps take the focus off me of being scared and hopefully using it as a prayer to help or bless others. I never want to take what God gave me for granted but to use it fully to thank Him.
By knowing that Jesus has already planned each slide before I have even taken it and praying for others gives me confidence to stand on the line, with my heart pounding out of my chest, and say to my pilot “Let’s go have some fun.” One of my favorite verses is Deuteronomy 31:8 “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
Scary things do happen in bobsled all the time. Going 75-95 mph down an ice tube creates that danger and the only way I am able to do this and have fun is by completely trusting that Jesus will protect me. Anything that would happen would be with His permission and ultimately be part of His plan so I don’t walk around with that fear. Saying that, 2 people after our slide had kind of a freak accident.
There are 16 curves at this track and in curve 15, the sled hit the lip of the roof and it tore the back runners off (where the brakeman sits). Our coaches were not comfortable sliding until it is deemed safe by the Federation, so that is why we have been waiting for the clearance to slide.
Races are this Friday. I will not be racing but I believe Jesus will provide other opportunities to race. At this point, I am so thankful to be on the team, traveling the world and representing the USA. This week, I will stand with gratitude in my heart and cheer on my teammates. I prayed long and hard to make the World Cup team, so I am determined not to let the devil steal my joy. Thank you all who have teamed up with me to make this possible. You are in my prayers daily and I know blessings will come back to you the way you have blessed me.
Random Facts from Latvia:
On December 10, we fly from Riga, Latvia to Frankfurt, Germany where we will drive 2 hours to Winterberg, Germany. Elana is racing 2-woman and also 4-woman at this spot. I will most likely be racing in the 4-woman race which is exciting!
More to come from Germany!
I’m so thankful for the Massage Heights family who was there for me when I was fresh out of college in my first job and is there for me now as a sponsor and big supporter of my dreams.
When I worked at Massage Heights West Maple in Omaha, Neb. back in 2012, I had no idea where my path would take me. Like any young adult, I was just finding my way and trying to navigate the real world. Stressful for sure. I always thought of Massage Heights as a fun place to work with caring people and I continued working there even after accepting another full-time corporate position. The people and great ambiance kept me coming back, and still does to this day. I met so many people along the way and have new life-long friendships because of my time there.
Never did I imagine that that same employer would step up in this way all these years later. It really shows how much they care and I believe God had me in that spot at that time for reasons I am seeing now. Beyond the mental and physical benefits of massage therapy, the company has played a major role in my journey and will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s truly a team atmosphere and I’m honored to have worked for such a great company.
So, THANK YOU Massage Heights for your support and the support you show all of your employees!
Was this a dream as a kid, and made reality through the passion for the sport?
Asked by Jake Swanson
Bobsledding was not a childhood dream. I really only found out about it last year. I knew what bobsledding was but didn’t realize it wasn’t a sport kids grew up doing. Competing at a high level - Olympics level - has always been a dream of mine.
Pre-race snack? Any pre-race superstitions or routines?
Asked by my step-sisters boyfriend, Ryan Bolt
Pre-race snack depends on if I (we) are over or under weight for the race, LOL. If my pilot and I are under weight, I would probably have a granola bar. If we are over weight, I’d have deep breath of air. ;)
As for pre-race routines…try to stay warm and pray.
Do you get free time to site see during the Olympics? Also, how much training do you put in a year?
Asked by Preston Zach
SIDENOTE: I have never been to the Olympics and have not been on an Olympic team.
But, in our travels and competing on the North American and World Cup circuits, we see a lot of things while traveling in the car. We also do have down time to do some things and especially after the races we are able to relax and site see.
Is there an emergency way to stop that darn bobsled?
Asked by Jon Lambert
To answer this the longest way I can, no. LOL
What is the fastest you have ever been on a sled?
Asked by Terry Henry
My pilot and I crashed in Whistler, Canada going 87 mph in curve 7 so I think we’ve gotten up to about 92-95 mph.
Who taught you to love snow?
Asked by my favorite human, most beautiful lady in the world, my Mama, Julie Brungardt
My Mama & Santa!
Who makes the bobsleds?
Asked by Jonathan Face
BMW makes all the bobsleds for the National Team.
What is the difference between bobsled and luge?
Asked by my former professor at Wayne State College, Sherry Dorman
Bobsled is raced with two or four people in a sled weighing about 400 pounds. Luge is an athlete (or two for doubles) on a sled about 70 pounds going down the track feet first. Skeleton is a single athlete on a 70-pound sled going down head first.
How long are your training practices?
Asked by Zachary Evans
Bobsled training practices (on ice) can be on average from 3-6 hours. There is a lot of sled work before and after sliding.
How long have you been bobsledding? Do you miss Nebraska? How do you practice bobsled in the summer?
Asked by Andrew Schliewe
I have been bobsledding for a year. I hate to say this but no, I do not miss Nebraska but I do miss the people. In the summer, we practice bobsledding by pushing a bobsled on wheels on a push track in Lake Placid!
When you feel like giving up or are in a funk, what do you do to get past it?
Asked by Darren Hromadka
Pray…believe…and keep grinding knowing that feelings are fickle and if I keep moving forward things will change.
What brought me to bobsledding versus another Olympic sport?
Asked by Sarah Jae
Bobsled was my path because the strengths it requires (speed, strength) to be successful in the sport is what I was best at in college.
What was the defining moment that made you leave everything to chase a dream?
By Anthony Watson (Jamaican Olympic Skeleton Athlete)
It was a moment when we were driving in Europe and I was overwhelmed with the beauty and my friend said she got a text from someone she knew, who was the same age, died unexpectedly . It was that moment when I realized life is too short to not continue to do something that I am passionate about and excited about. I love to travel, I love to compete and God has blessed me with the body to still do it so I decided I would continue to do this as long as He continued to provide a way. Thankfully, He has and I am not able to do this full time. Thank you for this question. I don’t believe I have actually ever told anyone that part.
What are your goals for the season and the next quad?
Asked by Corie Mapp
This season’s bobsledding goal is to make the National Team (Check J). My ultimate quad goal (4-year goal) is obviously the Olympics in 2022. I am learning to trust the process so my overall goal is to give 100% each opportunity I get and become a better, stronger, faster bobsledder and teammate.
Are the push bars set at the same height or can these be adjusted? What sled adjustments can be made? How are the runners (AKA things the sled slides on) sharpened?
Asked by Mark Hall
The push bars are set, they cannot be adjusted. For a brakeman, the foot pegs can be adjusted. Also, you can add padding around inside parts of the sled to help with comfort for or protection for a brakeman. The runners are sharpened by the team with sand paper…yes, sand paper. The night before a race you can spend 2-3 sanding the runners!
How do you stay grounded?
Asked by Marc Sundermeier
Realizing that life is a gift and a privilege and it can be taken from me at any time.
How did you get involved in bobsledding?
Asked by Taylor Stanton/Jacob Hoffman/Austin Fillipi
I was listening to a Christian radio station and I heard the story about Vonetta Flowers and how she went from missing the Olympics in track to bobsledding. This story sparked my interest and then I looked on USABS.com and saw there were combines to try out for bobsled each summer, and the rest is history.
What is your daily workout routine?
Asked by Lisa Neu
Everyday is different but it rotates on a schedule similar to this:
Monday/Wednesday/Friday - Sprints, Pushing, Lifting
Tuesday/Thursday - Tempo (Hurdle mobility, form running, Ab workouts)
Saturday - Bike
All the days include stretching and sports med to keep the body healthy :)
Do you grocery shop or do they provide food? What is your diet like?
Asked by McKenna Reagan
The only thing I go grocery shopping for is sparkling water. :) The Olympic Training Center provides all the food. If you’re not careful though, it’s like college all over again where you can gain the ‘freshman 15.’ To be honest, I go in spurts of being really strict and then not strict at all. When I am on top of my game I eat a TON of veggies, lean protein, whole grains and spinach smoothies. If you need to default to something, default to cooked, steamed, grilled veggies with marinara sauce, you’ll be surprised by how delicious it is.
Where on your travels has been your favorite place to visit?
Asked by Josh Vogel/Denise Webbert
This is hard to pick because everywhere we go is beautiful. There are only 16 tracks in the world, so a lot of them have held winter games at their site. Whistler, Canada was breath taking and then La Plagne, France because the drive there was through the French Alps. I’d also say St. Moritz, because everything about St. Moritz is perfect.
How fast is the bobsled moving? How many G-Forces are you pulling on the curves?
Asked by Wes Shockley
The speed depends on the track but I would say anywhere from 70-90 mph. We can experience from 4 to 5 G-Forces (feeling like an elephant stepped on your back) ;)
What do you wear under your speed suit (uniform)?
Asked by my sister-in-law Leslie
Depends if my pilot and I are close to making weight or not… LOL. If we are a few kilos over the night before, I wear only my burn vest. If we are under weight, I will wear a sports bra, burn vest and spandex.
How does your faith sustain you in these times? Both in struggles and joys?
Asked by Deb Harm
My faith is the only reason I can do any of this. Through experience, I am starting to appreciate the struggles because I know God is STILL in control and it makes the joys even sweeter. I’ve also found that the harder it gets, the greater the reward if I turn it to God. I heard this one time and also remind myself that Satan is going to try and stop me in every area of my life because my main goal in life is to take people to the kingdom with me, and I know that he’s trying to stop me because that is opposite of his plan.
In the joys I just say ‘thank you God’ continuously, I even cry most times because the joys are that sweet. In the struggles I often cry too but I go back to my foundation and that is reminding myself the promises in the Bible, and how He works all things out for good, and with that, I am able to continue on.
How do I become an Olympic bobsledder?
Asked by Ken Maese
First step: pass a USA Bobsled combine. The testing items are: 15m, 30m, 45m, 30 fly, standing broad jump, and shot toss. If you score over 500 points (score sheet on usabs.com), you’re one step in the right direction :)
How busy are you as a bobsledder?
Asked by William Knowles
Depends. Some athletes are full-time athletes and some athletes also work. Personally, I was used to working full time and then training so when I moved to the Olympic Training Center to strictly train, I found myself with more free time than I was used to (even though a days worth of training can be anywhere from 2-8 hours a day). I got a job as a part time barista 4 mornings a week so I keep busy.
How do you train your MIND? What are your favorite books, podcasts or other methods for mental toughness?
Asked by Sandi Lincoln
Getting my mind right is a daily requirement.
BOOKS I TRAVEL WITH:
1. My journals. I read them to remember and remind myself how faithful God has been through all my struggles and to see prayers answered that I prayed for back then!
2. Jesus Calling by Sarah Young
3. The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. It’s a book about praying for BIG things and believing to see them come to pass.
4. F* Your Feelings by Ryan Munsey. I just started this. My oldest brother called and said I need to Amazon Prime it ASAP. It’s about the mental toughness of Navy Seals and the best athletes in the world.
5. The Bible. Recently really focusing on the book of Daniel.
1. Joyce Meyer. I listen to her messages whenever I go on a walk and most times while I get ready in the morning to start the day out with beating the battle in my mind before it starts.
2. Steven Furtick. Pastor out of North Carolina. Incredible messages.
How do you prepare before a race? What is the most critical thing you have to do to get maximum speed?
Asked by Wesley Sykes
The most important thing I do before a race is mentally prepare. I visualize the track and its curves in my mind, along with my start. The sled picks up speed on the track mostly by how the pilot drives, but as a brakeman (which I am), it is pushing the sled the fastest at the beginning of the race.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome on your journey?
Asked by Michael Collins
I would say my challenges last year and this year are different. Last year I was challenged with fear. At the beginning of the season it was fear of the actual ride, fear of crashing, and then fear of always feeling dizzy after the slides in Lake Placid (my dizziness did end though!)
This year I have been challenged with feeling that I am not ‘enough.’ I had feelings early in training that I wasn’t fast enough, strong enough, technical enough, young enough and so on. I may not be enough in some areas but I know that God opened this door, brought me down this path, so enough or not, something good will come from it.
What are you favorite and least favorite tracks, and why?
Asked by Jonathan Wilhelm
My favorite track is in St. Moritz, Switzerland. If anyone knows about bobsled they know this is the answer. My least favorite used to be Lake Placid, but after winning two gold medals there last year on the North American Circuit, its still not my favorite but I don’t hate it now :)
Is Cool Runnings a motivational movie or comedy to the team? Is it your favorite? Is it a requirement to watch it? Have you ever chanted “Feel the Rhythm! Feel the Rhyme!” In your head before a race?
Asked by Tyler Labenz/Adam Powers/Jake Vawter
I will say that is one of the most popular questions we get (questions about Cool Runnings). No, it’s not my favorite movie but I did watch it for the first time last year and got goose bumps, but not a requirement to watch (ha!). I have never said that phrase before a race because in the moment I am thinking about way more than Cool Runnings… LOL!
I was reminded this weekend of how faithful God is when things really seem to not be going my way.
Saturday I was incredibly honored and touched to be inducted into this years Hall of Fame at Wayne State College. My athletic career at WSC did not start out with roses, but because I gave God my pain, I was fortunate enough to end my career at Wayne with more roses than I could have imagined.
The first year of my college volleyball season, I stood on the sideline and watched the 3 other freshman that were in my recruiting class play. Almost every game I held back tears as I stood there on the sideline. I was embarrassed, let down, and frankly, heartbroken. This is not how I pictured my college career to start.
Through my tears though, I silently prayed, asking God to not let this be how my athletic career ends. I prayed for miracles! I prayed for Him to make me the BEST college volleyball player Wayne has ever seen.
Sophomore season came, and I played a little more but half of my time was still on the sideline. I felt crushed, still, basically begging God to do something but not really sure how anything good could come from this.
The summer going into my Junior year, out of the blue I had an idea that I was going to quit volleyball and run track. (Looking back, I know it wasn’t out of the blue, that was a God designed moment.) I instantly felt like weights were lifted off of me. I called my volleyball coach (Coach Kneifl) and asked him if we could talk.
He knew what I was thinking before I even said anything. I think he could see the heartbreak that I had felt. But instead of quitting, by the Grace of God and his huge heart, he allowed me to continue to play volleyball but also run track in the offseason.
I didn’t become the best volleyball player Wayne ever had, but God did have a different plan. He opened the door to run track where I became a 4-time NCAA All-American. The confidence I gained from track carried over to volleyball and I was a better volleyball player. I gained a track family but I kept my volleyball family and THAT in itself, makes me want to cry because they are still my best friends.
I wouldn’t take back the time on the sideline because it stretched how much I trusted God, it made me a fighter and it showed me that no matter what, God will take your pain and do something great with it.
This Hall of Fame honor will always remind me of so much more than the awards, but more so the fight- not just the physical fight but the fight of faith. The fight against the devil who tried to tell me over and over my career was over and I was had hit my peak in high school. Thankfully, God has conquered this world, and if you fight with God on your team, you are guaranteed to eventually win.
Read: WSCWildcats.com - Four individuals, one team to be inducted into WSC Athletic Hall of Fame this weekend
Four months ago, I walked out of the CenturyLink office doors for the last time. As fate would have it, I was able to leave my full time job on positive terms and chase this wild little bobsled journey I started on last year.
I moved to Lake Placid in July to live and train at the Olympic Training Center. To fill up some of my spare time and make some extra cash, I walk a half mile to the Marriott Hotel and work as a barista a few mornings a week. Besides being on high alert on my morning walks because of Mr. Black Bear that keeps being spotted around campus, I love the simple life right now. I focus on getting myself mentally, physically and spiritually in the best place I can be, and it feels so good. It’s amazing what 10 hours of sleep a night can do to a person (I am sleeping before my nieces and nephew most nights! True statement.)
There are no guarantees in this athlete life, but there is one thing I can count on, and its Gods plan like Drake says (Ha!). I found myself stressing over which team I would make, if I was strong enough or fast enough, or just plain good enough for this lifestyle. After spending time with God and wanting to enjoy this process, I wrote this on my letter board to look at every day as a reminder:
Do the best you can
Then say F* it.
Gods got it.
Really, that’s all we can do in life in any situation. It definitely takes practice - a lot of it - to trust God fully. Still working on that and probably always will be because, I mean, I’m human.
If you could squeeze in a prayer for me, I’d appreciate it, and if there is something I can pray for you about, please let me know.
365 days ago, I was listening to Pastor Joel Osteen radio on Sirius XM 128 and I heard the story of Vonetta Flowers (American bobsledder) which planted the seed of bobsled in my heart. I remember exactly the moment I heard it (I was at the stoplight at 168th and Maple in Omaha, NE, going to my brother’s house) and I also remember the season I was going through at that time.
I’ve always heard the devil fights hardest when you are closest to your breakthrough. Well, I 100% agree with that. I was in an absolute state of survival at this point in my life. The devil had been attacking me from every angle. I felt stuck, alone, confused and hurt for a few months before this, and especially the two weeks prior to hearing this message. The only way I got through the day was waking up and listening to Joyce Meyer, Christian music and Joel Osteen radio while I drove, podcasts during work and phone calls with my mom. I had something encouraging playing the whole time I was awake, it was the only way I got through the day.
Looking back, if I hadn’t been going through all that, there is a strong chance I wouldn’t have been listening to Pastor Joel that Tuesday evening in my car. I listen to Joyce, Joel and Christian music anyway, but since it was an absolute necessity at this point in my life, God was making sure I didn’t miss this! Little did I know in that moment, my life was going to completely change.
I didn’t win a gold in the Olympics, but I got to live a life I couldn’t have even dreamed of - and still am. I am so thankful (now) for that tough season I went through. During that season I felt like things were never going to change and I was convinced my dreams were bigger than Gods plan. Today, 365 days later, I am reminded that Gods ways are so much higher than mine (Isaiah 55:8-9).
I couldn't find the broadcast message that I heard on the radio, but I found the article on JoelOsteen.com that is pretty much the same thing as I listened to a year ago today. I hope this message encourages you: You Can Trust God’s Faithfulness by Joel Osteen.
What a journey this has been, and to think that my first season is over is crazy and sad all at the same time. I would honestly do it all over. These past 8 months have been some of my favorite.
It is especially cool for me because I was living out some prayers that I had started praying about four years ago. I prayed to travel the world and not to be done with athletics, not knowing that I would get to travel and be competing in bobsled at the same time! God always out-does Himself.
The end of the season was special for me too. I ended the season with two gold medals at the last competition, one with each pilot. It was especially memorable for me because Lake Placid is the track that almost made me call it quits after my first slide down. So, to win two golds on the Lake Placid track just reminded me that anything God brings you to, He will bring you through.
So, what’s next?
I’ll continue to train and get ready for next season. I hope to make it up to Calgary once or twice to practice at the Ice House with some of my teammates this spring. Push Championships are held there and this is where they get your individual push times as well.
Oh yeah… my next goal?
Make the World Cup Team for the next three years.
Thanks for following my season! XOXO.
A little about the tracks we slid on in Europe:
La Plagne, France
15 curves, 14 timed (One of the curves is part of the breaking stretch)
St. Moritz, Switzerland
These curves are named, not numbered (Sunny, Horseshoe, Telephone, etc.)
Telephone got its name because so many people would crash out of Horseshoe they would have to call for help. This track is built up every year with only snow. Also, this is where bobsleigh started.
We hit (but didn’t crash, though) so hard out of the curve called Horseshoe in Switzerland I literally saw stars. I made a really loud “ughhhh” sound and my pilot heard. We laugh about it now. I’m just excited I don’t get dizzy anymore. Thank you, Jesus.
A few things about the trip:
Nutella is everywhere and served everywhere. Like butter in America.
You don’t see pickup trucks anywhere.
It snowed 90% of the time.
I slid with the Australian pilot going to this year’s games and also a former World Cup German pilot (male) for practice/fun.
In Austria, we had no dryer for our clothes, but our floors were heated.
McDonald’s have bakery’s in them here.
You need a prescription for ibuprofen.
Chow means hello and goodbye. That can get confusing.
Anywhere we went we got asked if we wanted still water or prickled (sparking).
An interesting conversation I had:
Bob? No, sparkling.
(When you don’t know another language, obsessed with sparkling water and in a grocery store...
I was looking at the waters, an employee saw my coat and said Bob? I thought he meant what kind of water do I want so I said, “no, sparkling” and from then on he thought I did Skeleton.)
We spent Christmas at our Swiss pilot friend’s house and with our Australians in Lucerne, Switzerland.
It’s interesting how all other countries know their language and pretty fluent in English too. I’m just like, well, I know what “mas o menos” means in Spanish. I really need to learn other languages.
You realize how everything is so convenient in America. For example, I will not miss scrambling for Euro/Swiss Franc to use the bathroom at a gas station.
I have to carry around my helmet, spikes and booty covers (aka rubber covers for my I-spikes) in my carry-on luggage. Makes for a heavy bag, me being uncomfortably hot and extra security checks.
It’s crazy to think I have friends from so many different countries now; Australia, Austria, Germany, France, Romania, Switzerland.
Incredibly thankful for travel. On the flight home, I was overwhelmed with just how faithful God is. I’ve prayed for years to not be done with athletics and also to travel the world, not knowing how either would ever happen. These last 8 months I’ve gotten just a taste of how much bigger God’s plans are for me than I have for myself.
From the friendly blue skies, XOXO.
P.S. If anyone is curious about bobsledding or has questions, feel free to ask! I had a million when I started.