US, Canada women's bobsled stars eager to race men
Elana Meyers Taylor has long wanted a chance to compete against men in a bobsled on an icy track.
That time might have arrived.
So Meyers Taylor was thrilled that the sport will consider the 4-man event gender neutral. That means men and women can compete with and against each other. It's a major victory for top women's pilots. They include 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 Georgia. "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 the drivers. It's believed most teams would still use three male athletes to push. The could use a female driver.
Humphries is the 2-time Olympic champion. Women's bobsled uses a 2-person sled. She has wanted the chance to get behind the controls of a 4-man sled. So she 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. Sliders from the U.S. and Canada seem 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. "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 Olympic 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 does a 4-man. The 2010 Olympic champion, Steven Holcomb of 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 some may not understand how hard it is to drive a 4-man sled. But he has no doubt some women can do it.
The World Cup season opens at Lake Placid, New York, in December. It's possible that women may be in 4-man sleds. Women's pilots would still have to show their abilities, just as male pilots would, in a 4-man. That must come before they can be entered into a World Cup race in that type of sled.
There are some smaller races before the World Cup opener. Those could give women time to qualify to drive 4-man in Lake Placid.
"This will create some excitement," Steele said.