November 08, 2014

Elana Meyers Taylor has believed for years that she could compete against men.

Now there's no doubt.

The two-time Olympic women's bobsled medalist drove to a third-place finish Saturday in the U.S. four-man national team selection race at Park City, Utah, finishing behind Nick Cunningham and Steven Holcomb, and ahead of three other sleds. And with that, Meyers Taylor is now a significant step closer having a shot of competing against men on the World Cup circuit this winter and potentially the 2018 Olympics.

''Right now, I don't even know what to think,'' Meyers Taylor said after the competition. ''For me, the most important part is coming out here and showing that women can compete with the men. ... We're taking it day by day, week by week and we'll see what happens. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself.''

Bobsled's worldwide governing body decided this year to declare four-man gender neutral, meaning women are cleared to compete alongside males in that particular discipline. Until now, women could only compete in two-person sleds and not with men.

But there has been a push, fueled largely by the U.S. and Canada, in recent years to open the four-man door to both sexes. Meyers Taylor and Canada's Kaillie Humphries are the two drivers known to be hoping for a four-man opportunity, and both are now eligible for their national teams by finishing third in their respective selection races.

Humphries won gold at the Sochi Olympics this year; Meyers Taylor, a bronze medalist as a push athlete in 2010, drove to silver in Sochi.

''It's not about competing with Kaillie or anything like that,'' Meyers Taylor said. ''It's really about getting in, and seeing what can happen.''

Neither Humphries nor Meyers Taylor is ''in'' yet. To race at the World Cup level, drivers of either sex have to show a certain aptitude, usually by competing in lower-tier races.

So for either to be eligible for four-man in the World Cup debut next month at Lake Placid, New York, there are two options. One is a waiver that would allow them to forgo some qualifying steps, which doesn't seem likely. The other means they would have to compete in three races - at Park City; Calgary, Alberta; and La Plagne, France - over the next month on the North American and Europa Cup tours.

''I am hopeful, because I think me and Kaillie and in kind of the same boat,'' Meyers Taylor said. ''We're going to do what we can and see what happens. I'm really optimistic that I will be able to compete on World Cup this year.''

Humphries made no effort to hide for years that she wants the chance to race a four-man on the top circuit.

''I'm in this to win,'' Humphries said after finishing third in Canada's team trials. ''The ultimate goal is four years from now so there are a number of steps we need to take together including qualifying for the World Cup, but overall this was a good first step.''

Holcomb, the three-time Olympic medalist, led after Saturday's first heat but his crew had some trouble settling into the sled in the second run. That blip was more than enough for Cunningham to take the win, as his team of Casey Wickline, James Reed and Samuel Michener finished two runs in 1 minute, 37.21 seconds.

Holcomb and push athletes Justin Olsen, Aaron Victorian and Alex Harrison were second in 1:37.52.

Meyers Taylor's crew was composed of Dustin Greenwood, Adrian Adams and Nic Taylor - her husband. They finished in 1:37.85, just 0.04 seconds better than the fourth-place sled piloted by Codie Bascue.

''I think I'm the only one who kisses my brakeman,'' Meyers Taylor said. ''That's a nice dynamic. It's been awesome.''

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