Elana Meyers Taylor knows that she needs a strong, fast and powerful push athlete to get the best possible start.
Taking matters into her own hands, the two-time Olympic medalist has unabashedly contacted elite athletes from other sports on social media about trying bobsled.
“Athletes take her seriously,” said U.S. bobsled head coach Brian Shimer. “She is not just anybody—she’s an Olympic medalist and a world champion.”
Speed is the first trait Meyers Taylor looks for in a potential recruit. Her targets are usually about 150-175 pounds, since “you need a little bit of size behind you. It is a gravity sport.”
Her sales pitch is simple:
“I know you don't know what you're doing, but nobody else does either, and we'll teach you everything you know. Just bring your athleticism and we'll lead you to Olympic medal."
It has worked.
She won a gold medal at the 2017 World Championships with Kehri Jones, a former sprinter who she personally recruited to the sport.
Jones received an email from Meyers Taylor as a student-athlete at Baylor University. Nervous about communicating with an Olympic medalist, Jones let her response sit overnight in her email drafts folder.
“I read it, like, five times,” Jones recalled. “I had my mom read it to make sure everything was perfect before I sent her that first e-mail.”
When Jones arrived at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, Meyers Taylor took her down the track for the first time.
“You hop in and you don't really know what to expect,” said Jones, who grew up in Texas. “I really just prayed the whole way down because I was so scared.”
Jones now rooms with Meyers Taylor on the road, and Meyers Taylor refers to her as a “little sister.”
“She's taken the sport like a natural,” Meyers Taylor said.
Not every athlete succeeds in bobsled.
“It looks like it should be pretty simple, but it's not,” Meyers Taylor said. “You just have to be patient with yourself and give yourself time to understand this new sport and to really learn it in order to be the best in the world.”
Meyers Taylor therefore looks for individuals who have the right mindset, in addition to athletic attributes.
“You need to find an athlete who's very adaptable,” she said, “and somebody who can learn things very quickly.”