US, Canada women's bobsled stars eager to race men
Elana Meyers Taylor has long wanted a chance to jump in a bobsled and compete against men on an icy track.
That time might have arrived.
So Meyers Taylor was thrilled with the announcement that bobsled's governing body will consider the 4-man event gender neutral. It's a major victory for top women's pilots such as Taylor and Canada's Kaillie Humphries.
"I am ecstatic about the opportunity to drive a 4-man," said Meyers Taylor. She is a 2-time women's bobsled Olympic medalist from Douglasville, Georgia. "Personally, I'm excited for a new challenge as an athlete and a bobsled pilot. This goes a long way to ensure more gender equality in our sport, which is very refreshing . . . I'm ready to go for it."
The rule change will likely only impact pilot choices. That's because it's believed most teams would still use three male push athletes with a female driver.
Humphries is the 2-time Olympic champion in women's bobsled, which uses a 2-person sled . She has been one of the most vocal about her desire to have the chance at getting behind the controls of a 4-man sled. For some time, she has has pushed for the rule change.
"Woke up to a whole new world," Humphries wrote on Twitter early Thursday.
The notion has been floated by some women's pilots for years. With a new season looming, talk had picked up again among supporters of the rule change.
Sliders from the U.S. and Canada seemed to be among the biggest supporters of allowing women to race with men.
"I think there's some fear that it changes the 4-man. I don't think that's realistic," U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation leader Darrin Steele said. "My point of view: If a woman is good enough to jump in a 4-man and compete with the guys, more power to her. I think those that have the ability are going to be few in number. But if they've got the ability and want to do it, then why get in the way?"
Humphries and Heather Moyse won the women's gold at the Sochi Games. They were followed by a pair of American sleds Meyers Taylor with Lauryn Williams, and Jamie Greubel with pusher Aja Evans.
A 2-man bobsled handles much differently than a 4-man does. The 2010 Olympic champion, Steven Holcomb of Park City, Utah, has likened driving a 2-man to a sports car. He says a 4-man is more like driving a school bus.
Steele said he has concerns that some may underestimate the difficulty of driving a 4-man sled. But he has no doubt some women can be competitive.
The World Cup season opens at Lake Placid, New York, in December. It's possible that women may be in 4-man sleds for that race. Women's pilots would still have to show proficiency, just as male pilots would, in a 4-man. That must come before they can be entered into a World Cup competition in that type of sled.
There are some lower-tier races in North America and Europe before the World Cup opener. Those events could give women enough time to qualify to drive 4-man in Lake Placid.
"This will create some excitement," Steele said.
Critical thinking challenge: Why might most teams still use three males to push with a female driver?