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 on an icy track against men.
That time might have arrived.
Saying it was a "huge" move for the sport, Meyers Taylor was thrilled with the announcement that bobsled's governing body will consider the 4-man event gender neutral, a major win 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, 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 realize it will take a lot of work to compete at the highest level, but I'm ready to go for it."
The rule change will likely only impact pilot choices because it's believed most teams would still use three male push athletes with a female driver.
Humphries, the 2-time Olympic champion in women's bobsled a 2-person sled has been one of the most vocal about her desire to have the chance at getting behind the controls of a 4-man sled, and has pushed for the rule change for some time.
"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 and with a new season looming, talk had picked up again in recent weeks among supporters of the rule change.
Sliders from the U.S. and Canada seemed to be among the most ardent supporters of allowing women to race alongside and against 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 CEO 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, 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. 2010 Olympic champion Steven Holcomb of Park City, Utah has likened driving a 2-man to a sports car, and a 4-man to a school bus.
Steele said he has concerns that some may underestimate the difficulty of driving a 4-man sled, though has no doubt some women can be competitive.
The World Cup season opens at Lake Placid, New York, in December and 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 before they could 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, and those events could give women enough time to qualify to drive 4-man in Lake Placid. Women's pilots could also appeal to have certain portions of the qualifying criteria waived.
"This will create some excitement," Steele said.
Critical thinking challenge: Why might most teams still use three males to push with a female driver?