Sochi Watch: Bobsledder Lauryn Williams is Two Minutes Away From Gold

The Rochester native could become one of the most improbable gold medal winners in Olympic history. Find out why.




Illustration by Jordan Merchant
 

 

A year ago, Lauryn Williams had never been inside a bobsled.

A month ago, Lauryn Williams wasn’t yet guaranteed a spot in Sochi.

Today, the Rochester, Pa. native is two minutes away from becoming the second athlete (and first woman) in history to win gold medals at both the summer and winter Olympic games.

Pushing the USA-1 sled in the first two rounds of competition today, Williams and driver Elana Meyers recorded the fastest time in both heats, at 57.26 seconds in the first and 57.63 in the second. Scoring in the bobsled competition is cumulative, so Williams and Meyers sit in gold-medal position with a combined time of 1 minute, 54.89 seconds at the competition’s halfway mark; they lead the defending gold medalists, Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse of Canada, by a scant 0.23 seconds.

If that seems like a slim margin, it is. Williams and Meyers will have to keep up today’s world-class performance through two more runs tomorrow to fend off the formidable Canadian squad — as well as the rest of the field, including fellow Americans Jamie Greubel and Aja Evans in third place. (Another track star turned bobsled pusher, Lolo Jones, and driver Jazmine Fenlator, sit in 11th place after today’s races.)

If Williams and Meyers can hold on, though, Western Pennsylvania will have a new champion. It’s been 82 years since boxer and bobsledder Eddie Eagan become the first person to win gold in the summer and the winter games; we shouldn’t be surprised that the City of Champions would send someone to break that drought.


*
 

A quick hockey update: it will indeed be a rematch for the gold in the women’s tournament, as Canada advanced to the gold-medal game with a 3-1 victory over Switzerland yesterday. Canada won a preliminary-round clash with the U.S. by an airtight 3-2 margin, so Thursday’s battle for the gold should be a good one; it’s scheduled for 12:00 noon.

Meanwhile, this morning’s men’s hockey qualification round saw some expected results and one stunning upset. Russia dispatched with Norway, 4-0, and will advance to face Olli Maatta, Jussi Jokinen and the rest of the Finnish team; if Geno wants a shot at a rematch with the U.S., he’ll have to get by his young teammates first. Slovenia beat Austria 4-0, and will face Sweden in the quarterfinals. Previously-hapless Latvia, who recorded no wins and only 5 goals through the prelims, dealt a shocking, 3-1 defeat to the heavily-favored Swiss, and will face Canada tomorrow; can Latvia’s Cinderella story continue with an upset of Crosby and company? (Spoiler alert: for real, no.)

And Jaromir Jagr and his Czech brethren bested Slovakia 5-3 for the right to play Team USA tomorrow. A few years ago, Dan Bylsma nearly became Jagr’s coach in a much-ballyhooed effort to get the all-star back in black and gold; that fell apart, and we’ll be watching as Bylsma, Brooks Orpik and Paul Martin attempt to send Jags back to Prague in a small measure of revenge.

The updated matchups and schedule for tomorrow are below; for the voracious Olympic viewer, I’ve interspersed the women’s bobsled schedule, so you can take a break from a big morning of hockey to see Lauryn Williams race into history. Hockey games featuring Penguins in bold.
 

Wednesday

3:00 a.m. — Sweden vs. Slovenia

7:30 a.m. — Finland vs. Russia

11:15 a.m. — Women’s Bobsled, Heat 3

12:00 noon — Canada vs. Latvia

12:00 noon — U.S.A. vs. Czech Republic

12:15 p.m. — Women’s Bobsled, Final Heat


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