Elana Meyers Taylor bobsleigh career in doubt after big crash and tweet

USA’s Meyers Taylor crashed out of the IBSF World Championships 2019 with teammate Lake Kwaza.

By Edward Knowles

At first glance, it looked bad.

In their third run at the IBSF World Championships 2019, Elana Meyers Taylor and Lake Kwaza of USA flipped their sleigh.

It slid upside down at high speed all the way to the finish line.

They did not compete in the last run but walked away from the accident.

WATCH: Incident in full below. Begins at 06:35.

In a recent tweet, Meyers Taylor hinted at a possible retirement.

“Always heartbreaking to end the season w/out a World Champ Medal (sic) but to end it on a crash was devastating.

“This hurts - not just mentally from the defeat I’ve got bad concussion (and) possible hairline fracture in my arm."

“I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m a fighter.”

It’s the fifth time that the 34-year-old has suffered a major head injury.

The Olympic Channel Podcast spoke to her before the crash about concussion, double standards in gender and her Olympic career.


Q. You’ve suffered several concussions now. When does it stop being worth it?

That’s a question that I continually ask myself. I continue to work with doctors to this day. I have been assured that I am healthy and that I am good to compete… I have to constantly check in with them... Because as soon as the red light comes in – it’s over and I have to be ok with that decision. Hopefully – I don’t get that red light. Hopefully I can retire when I choose to – but you never know with this sport.

Unfortunately – I am what you call a crash pilot. I tend to crash a little bit more than most pilots. I tend to figure things out more from a crash than a run that was ok. I crash my fair share of times. I am trying to stop that though – I don’t like to crash. But even when you don’t crash you take a lot hits to the head.

Q. Does doubt start to creep into your performance?

Yes. It definitely does. But that’s the biggest change I have had to make. When I am not feeling comfortable, when I am not feeling – when I am having too much doubt or something like that, I can’t get in my sled. Now it’s turned into now if I have doubts about my safety or my health – if I have any gut feeling – I don’t get in the sled… It seems a little weird. But I think that’s kind of normal with my experiences of concussions. It’s normal to have that little bit of worry.. I work very heavily with a sports psychologist to continue to work on those issues… to really genuinely trust that I am going to be OK for everything single run I choose to take.

Elana Meyers Taylor at PyeongChang 2018

Recognising the problem

Q. I think it’s quite brave to even recognise it as a problem.

As an athlete you never want to admit that you have any self doubt. Right? You always want to admit – I am the baddest mother sucker out there on the planet. I am going to go out and rock this. Every single day. You never want to show your competitors any sign of weakness… Fortunately, I am able to have those conversations and it’s important and it’s what has allowed me to continue sliding to this day – being able to have those conversations and open discussions.

Q. I read that there’s a lack of evidence for specifically female concussions.

I’ve decided to donate my brain – once I pass away which hopefully is not for a very long time - to the Concussion Legacy Foundation. They are a group who study CTE and the effects of concussion over the long term. The reason that I have decided to do that is that women are more likely to suffer from concussions. Biologically there are differences between men and women that make us more susceptible. They are very underrepresented as far as the research goes. It’s very important to me to be able to speak about these things and to be able to recognise that this is problem amongst the female population too

I think – believe it or not – a lot of women have this tendency to try to ‘tough it out’. Because I think there’s a societal stigma that we are weaker sex... They don’t want to live up to a stereotype of women being weak. So, we push through things when we shouldn’t necessarily.

Elana Meyers Taylor and Lake Kwaza slide during the second run

Women’s issues

Q. What is your dream outcome for 2019 as president of Women’s Sports Foundation?

I have a couple of different agenda items this year. The first is really trying to increase our athlete membership. And, with all the scandals that we have unfortunately had in the US, with the USA gymnastics and swimming and diving, we really want to provide a platform to help athletes provide a voice… We are not lawyers. We definitely want to make sure that they know where to go in order to get help.

No athlete should feel unsafe in order to do the sport they love.

To go after the Olympic dream and have those things happen, it’s very, very tragic. We want to whatever we can to help those athletes.

Elana Meyers Taylor at the Women In Sports Awards Gala


Q. Tennis player Martina Navratilova was accused of being transphobic by saying that women, even if they have undergone the hormone treatment, may still have an unfair advantage over other female competitors. What did you make specifically about Martina’s comments?

I think the biggest thing when we go into the realm of transgendered people in athletic sport is that there’s not a lot of research. There’s not a lot of conclusive research about what the different levels of testosterone are and what the different levels of oestrogen and what not have in regards to athletic performance.

There are so many benefits and if we are limiting people based off of their gender that’s a real problem.

As far as Martina Navratilova’s comments – I think it’s concerning because we do have to make ways for people to have participation in sports. I do think there needs to be continued research about where different genders fit into the spectrum. But we need to work to make pathways so they can be included. Especially with the issues that transgendered people tend to have – higher rates of depression, higher rates of suicide. Sport is a great pathway to help with some of those issues. It’s very important that we don’t limit those benefits to that group of people as well.

Martina Navratilova at awards ceremony

Q. When you sit down with a person who is affected by this on either side – the human impact is obvious. How often do you think individuals are forgotten in this process?

I think it is forgotten a lot. I think that’s part of the problem. I think that there’s concerns on both sides. Obviously, for the transgendered population and for the women who feel they have a disadvantage competing against some of the transgendered athletes. There is a lot of complexity about this issue. But I think it is important to remember what the purpose of sport is. For me, I think sport is there to be inclusive. And, having won three Olympic medals, I can tell you it is not all about the Olympic medals. Winning Olympic medals is cool but there is a larger picture and part of that is the inclusive nature of sport. If we are not looking at what we are really here for – and what sports is really all about - then we are doing a disservice to everyone. Everyone who participates. All genders. All races. Everyone.

Double standards

Q. It doesn’t get much bigger than a big ad focusing just on women’s sport during the Oscars. How seriously do you think the public at large are taking women’s sport at the moment?

I think it’s getting much more attention and I think it’s being taken much more seriously which is something that I greatly appreciate… I think it really helps to have athletes like Serena Williams out there doing what they do and getting a lot of attention and publicity.I think that it’s the whole package of female athletes that we have got in the spotlight right now that are really helping pave the way.

Q. Away from Olympic sport there’s scandal after scandal involving males. There’s a disconnect between what’s ok for a man to do and what’s ok for women to do. Do you think there’s a double standard?

There’s definitely a double standard. I think John McEnroe (has) done worse things than Serena and not been penalised.

It still is a double standard and one that we will fight for a long time.

There are still a lot of countries in the world where women are penalised for trying to do sport. So, I think we are still in that age where women are expected to look and act a certain way when they are performing. (But) with the Nike campaign saying, ‘Hey – we aren’t crazy – we are just the best in the world. Allow us to do what we do and enjoy it’.

Once we have more statements like that, I think it’s going to continue to break down these societal barriers that women have to look and act a certain way in order to be seen as successful.

I think the best way you can see it is on Twitter. Athletes receive way more hate for the same exact things that male athletes do. (But they) are strong and powerful and our time is definitely coming.

Elana Meyers Taylor is next week’s guest on the Olympic Channel podcast.

We speak to athletes, and others involved in sport, about the biggest Olympic talking points.

The interview and questions were shortened to make them easier to read.

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