Still on a high from last month’s World Cup victory, the women on the American bobsled team said Monday they feel prepared to take on expectations for a similar win at the Winter Olympics.
Lolo Jones, the hurdler-turned-bobsledder competing in her first Winter Games, said everyone handles the pressure differently.
“Some people are motivated by it, and some of them kind of don’t like those expectations, so they try to position themselves to be in the underdog positions,” she told TODAY’s Matt Lauer in Sochi. “I think we’re all ready to handle whatever comes our way.”
For the first time in nearly 13 years, the United States swept the medals stand at the women’s bobsled World Cup last month. Elana Meyers and Aja Evans won gold medals while Jamie Greubel and Jones tied for second with Jazmine Fenlator and Lauryn Williams to complete the American sweep.
But now the team has their sights set on similar victories in Sochi. Their time in Russia has definitely been exhilarating so far, Meyers said.
“We didn’t really know what to expect with our whole Olympic experience. A lot of us are new to winter sports,” she said with a nod to Jones and Williams, a former sprinter and the other Summer Olympian on the team.
Pressure has been just as intense on the U.S. men’s bobsled team, which is anchored by Steven Holcomb, who helped make history at the 2010 Winter Olympics by leading Americans to their first gold medal in men’s bobsled in 62 years.
Holcomb told Lauer he’s ready to repeat the accomplishments of the last Winter Games.
“I’m actually really confident,” he said. “I’ve got three incredible athletes behind me for the push. I’m four years more experienced. Having that experience and being that prepared takes a lot of that pressure off.”
Bobsled is considered the NASCAR of the Winter Games, with teams of racers careening down an ice-covered track filled with various turns and protected only by a sleigh.
“If I had to compare it to something I’d say it’s like the fastest, craziest roller coaster that you could ever find in an amusement park,” said U.S. bobsledder Steve Langston. “No seat belts, no padding. Just a couple of handles and some fiberglass.”
Women's bobsledder Fenlator said being surrounded in the Olympic village by other top competitors has helped provide daily motivation.
“Being a part of Team USA, we’re super competitive within our team, having the caliber of athletes pushing you every day to the max,” she said. “We live together. We sprint together. We may not be on the same program, but we’re cheering each other on every day. So at the top of the hill, we know that we’re the best team available.”
Both Fenlator and Meyers have been balancing their training with other responsibilities, specifically MBA studies.
“Bobsledding is part of our lives but we have to be complete people so we do as much as we can off the ice to have fun on it,” she said.