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Daily Olympic Briefing: Elana Meyers Taylor goes monobobbing for gold on Day 9

Daily Olympic Briefing: Elana Meyers Taylor goes monobobbing for gold on Day 9
Posted at 4:44 PM, Jan 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-12 22:58:25-05

Each day of the 2022 Winter Games, NBC Olympics will run down every sport in action, highlighting the biggest athletes and marquee events. Every single event streams live on NBCOlympics.com, the NBC Sports app and Peacock, and many are also on the TV networks of NBC. Visit the Olympic schedule page for listings sorted by sport and TV network.

On Day 9, women’s monobob debuts featuring Elana Meyers Taylor, Erin Jackson can end a U.S. speed skating drought and the U.S. men’s hockey team finishes group play.

All times listed below are Eastern Time on the night of Saturday, February 12 or the morning of Sunday, February 13.

Bobsled

Bobsled: Women's Monobob
All events also stream live on Peacock
Event Time (ET) How to Watch
Run 1 8:30 p.m. NBCOlympics.com, NBC
Run 2 10:00 p.m. NBCOlympics.com, NBC

In the Olympic debut of monobob, triple Olympic medalist Elana Meyers Taylor competes a week removed from a stint in COVID-19 isolation after arriving at the Winter Games two weeks ago. The first two runs of the competition take place on Saturday night with the conclusion of the event and final two runs taking place on Sunday night after the Super Bowl.

It’s hardly Meyers Taylor’s first challenge as an athlete.

She took up bobsled after her Olympic softball dreams ended with “the worst tryout ever in the history of tryouts,” she has said.

Upon watching the 2006 Olympics, her mom, Janet, suggested Meyers Taylor try a new sport.

“You’re strong and fast. These are your strengths in softball, it could work for bobsled,” she remembered her parents telling her.

Meyers Taylor, who learned how to be a softball pitcher by going to Borders every day and reading a book about it, flew to Lake Placid, N.Y., home of one of the two bobsled tracks in the country.

Her dad, Eddie, enlisted one of his former football teammates, Billy “White Shoes” Johnson, to be her fitness coach.

(Eddie spent six straight summers in Atlanta Falcons training camps in the 1980s but never played in the regular season as he fulfilled service with the U.S. Marines.)

Meyers Taylor remembers being disoriented after her first bobsled run, even though it was only the bottom half of the track. Still, she knew by the end of her first week that she was destined to move from the back of the sled (push athlete) to the front (driver).

That had to wait. Almost every bobsled convert starts as a push athlete, where you have little control over whether you’re chosen to compete.

Meyers Taylor was at the center of such politics at the 2009 World Championships. Top U.S. driver Shauna Rohbock had been competing with close friend Valerie Fleming for years, including taking silver at the 2006 Olympics.

But Meyers Taylor edged Fleming in a pre-worlds race-off, and coaches put Meyers Taylor in the back of Rohbock’s sled. Rohbock was upset with the process. Meyers Taylor, in a difficult spot, raced with “4 VAL” written on tape on the back of her helmet. They won silver.

In 2010, Meyers Taylor pushed for Erin Pac Blumert in their first Olympics. Pac Blumert suffered an upper leg injury shortly before the Games and did not push the sled in training runs.

“[Meyers Taylor] didn’t once say suck it up. She was supportive,” Pac Blumert said this week. “She’s like, ‘You know what, we’re here together. We’re a team. Let’s do this.’ And I really admire her for that.”

Pac and Meyers Taylor, the No. 2 U.S. team going into the Olympics, finished ahead of Rohbock’s sled and earned a bronze medal. They celebrated with McDonald’s and ice cream.

Then Meyers Taylor went to work, switching to the driver’s seat. There was push back from the federation. Meyers Taylor said she was asked, “Why do we need to take one of our top brakemen and turn her into a driver?”

She answered emphatically over the last decade: two world championships gold medals, two World Cup season titles and two Olympic silver medals.

“She knew where she wanted to go,” said Pac Blumert, who retired after the 2010 Olympics. “I didn’t realize that she would continue as far as she has.”

At the 2014 Olympics, Meyers Taylor and push athlete Lauryn Williams led going into the fourth and final run. Their sled grazed the wall, and they missed gold by one tenth of a second. “Hopefully America will forgive me,” Meyers Taylor said after.

Then came the major injuries. In January 2015, she sustained a concussion in a race crash. Meyers Taylor still swept the World Cup and world championships titles that season but missed much of the next season. “I really lost a year of my life,” she said.

In 2018, she raced on a torn Achilles at the Olympics. Husband Nic Taylor remembered her state of mind going into the final run, before she won another silver (this time with push athlete Lauren Gibbs).

“She said, ‘I’m either going to tear it off the bone trying to win, or I’m not going to compete at all,’ and then she walked away,” he said. “I was like, oh my God, maybe that’s why I don’t have any Olympic medals.”

In 2020, Meyers Taylor gave birth to son Nico between the third and fourth heats of the world championships, the first time she missed the competition since 2007. She was in labor for two days, induced three weeks early, before undergoing an emergency C-section. They soon learned Nico had Down syndrome.

The Taylors traveled the World Cup tour the last two seasons, managing childcare amid a pandemic. They did everything possible to avoid COVID-19, but Meyers Taylor tested positive two days after arriving at the Olympics.

She was voted by her U.S. Olympic teammates to carry the American flag in the Opening Ceremony but had to cede the honor while in isolation.

Meyers Taylor was the top monobob driver in the world this season with four wins in eight starts, but how she’ll fare in the event’s Olympic debut is unclear.

She was discharged in time to take all six official training runs with a best ranking of fourth in the final run. It marked her first runs in a sled in three weeks. She also has the two-woman event later in the final week of the Games.

“My goal was to come in here and win two gold medals,” Meyers Taylor, is 37 and may retire after these Games. “Now, if I just get to the starting line, I can make good things happen.”
 

Alpine Skiing

Alpine Skiing: Men's Giant Slalom
All events also stream live on Peacock
Event Time (ET) How to Watch
Run 1 9:15 p.m. NBCOlympics.com, NBC
Run 2 🏅 12:45 a.m. NBCOlympics.com, NBC

The last three Olympic men’s giant slalom gold medalists – Switzerland's Carlo Janka, American Ted Ligety and Austrian Marcel Hirscher – retired since PyeongChang. Enter Switzerland's Marco Odermatt, a 24-year-old phenom who won four of the five World Cup GS races so far this season.

Alexis Pinturault, a 30-year-old Frenchman, has 34 World Cup race wins, an overall title, a world championships combined gold and three Olympic medals, but his chances to win a first Olympic title are running out. He has struggled so far in China with an 11th in the super-G and a DNF in the combined. The top American is River Radamus, a 24-year-old who has two sixth-place finishes this season.

Speed Skating

Speed Skating
All events also stream live on Peacock
Event Time (ET) How to Watch
Men's Team Pursuit Quarterfinals 8:00 a.m. NBCOlympics.com, NBC
Women's 500m 🏅 8:45 a.m. NBCOlympics.com, NBC

In the women’s 500m, Erin Jackson is the latest U.S. speed skater to take aim at ending the nation’s 12-year individual medal drought. Jackson, who in 2018 became the first Black woman to make a U.S. Olympic team in long-track speed skating after just months on the ice, has since blossomed into the world’s top-ranked sprinter. She began this season with a World Cup-best finish of ninth, then won four of the first five World Cups.

Jackson’s status as Olympic favorite was challenged in the last two months. Rivals from the ROC and Japan outperformed her at the last two World Cups, and then Jackson was third at the Olympic Trials after slipping.

The U.S. men’s team pursuit also has medal ambitions after breaking the world record in December. The four fastest teams from the quarterfinals advance to the medal races Tuesday.

Short Track

Short Track
All events also stream live on Peacock
Event Time (ET) How to Watch
Men's 500m, Women's Relay 🏅 6:00 a.m. NBCOlympics.com, USA

In the relay final, the top four nations in women’s short track vie for three medals. It could be a poignant race for the Netherlands. In 2018, a Dutch quartet including Lara van Ruijven took bronze, the Netherlands’ first Olympic medal in a short track relay. Van Ruijven died in 2020 following complications from an autoimmune disorder at 27. Dutch skaters have panther-themed hearts on their uniform sleeves in honor of van Ruijven, who competed with eyewear and the back of her helmet decorated in a panther-skin theme.

In 2018, Wu Dajing was the lone Chinese athlete to win a gold medal in any event. He will try to repeat as Olympic 500m champion, though Hungarian brothers Shaolin Sandor Liu and Shaoang Liu own the most recent world championships and World Cup titles. The Liu brothers’ father was born in China, and they have substantial Weibo followings (though a fraction of Wu’s nearly 10 million).

Biathlon

Biathlon: Men's 12.5km
All events also stream live on Peacock
Event Time (ET) How to Watch
Women's 10km Pursuit 🏅 4:00 a.m. NBCOlympics.com
Men's 12.5km Pursuit 🏅 5:45 a.m. NBCOlympics.com

Norwegians Marte Olsbu Roiseland and Johannes Thingnes Boe start with leads in the women’s and men’s pursuits by virtue of the results in the sprints. Roiseland, with medals in all three events so far, has a great shot at becoming the first person to win six medals at a single Winter Olympics. That’s unless Boe or Frenchman Quentin Fillon Maillet, who also have three medals in three events, beat her to it, as the last men’s event occurs before the last women’s event.

Roiseland, a 31-year-old who lives in the 1994 Olympic host town Lillehammer, won medals in all seven events at the 2020 World Championships, including five golds. Winning six medals in one sport at an Olympics has only been possible since 2002, and even now it’s only possible in four sports.

Cross Country Skiing

Cross-Country Skiing: Men's Relay
All events also stream live on Peacock
Event Time (ET) How to Watch
Men's Relay 🏅 2:00 a.m. NBCOlympics.com, USA

Norway, the Russian Olympic Committee and France took gold, silver and bronze in the men’s cross-country skiing relay, in that order, at the last Olympics and the last two world championships. Norwegian Johannes Hosflot Klaebo and ROC veteran Sergey Ustiugov may duel on the anchor if it’s close after the first three legs. A rising U.S. team placed eighth at 2021 Worlds and will chase the best U.S. Olympic men’s cross-country skiing result in any event of the last five Games (sixth place).

Freeskiing

Freeski Slopestyle
All events also stream live on Peacock
Event Time (ET) How to Watch
Women's Qualifying 9:00 p.m. NBCOlympics.com, USA

The top-12 women in qualifying in aerials and slopestyle advance to finals. Eileen Gu, the 18-year-old Chinese freeskier who won big air, returns for slopestyle, the most challenging of her three events. She’s still a medal favorite. In aerials, all four American women made a World Cup podium last season, but none this season. Winter Vinecki, the first person to run a marathon on every continent before 15, will become the first person with the first name Winter to compete at a Winter Olympics.

UPDATE: Due to heavy snowfall, women's slopestyle qualifying has been postponed.

Hockey

Men's Hockey: Preliminary Games
All events also stream live on Peacock
Matchup Time (ET) How to Watch
Slovakia vs Latvia 11:00 p.m. NBCOlympics.com, CNBC
Finland vs Sweden 3:30 a.m. NBCOlympics.com, USA
USA vs Germany 8:00 a.m. NBCOlympics.com, USA
China vs Canada 8:00 a.m. NBCOlympics.com

The U.S. men, after beating Canada for the fourth time in Olympic history, control their own destiny for a bye into the quarterfinals. Beat 2018 Olympic silver medalist Germany in the group finale and they’re in and very likely as the top seed. The top-four teams overall from group play get byes into the quarters. Everybody else goes into a playoff round.

Curling

Men's & Women's Curling: Round Robin
All events also stream live on Peacock
Matchup Time (ET) How to Watch
USA vs Canada (M) 8:00 p.m. NBCOlympics.com, CNBC
USA vs Sweden (W) 1:00 a.m. NBCOlympics.com
USA vs China (M) 7:00 a.m. NBCOlympics.com

The U.S. women's record fell to 3-1 on Saturday and the team now faces a daunting stretch as they try to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002: 2018 Olympic champ Sweden, then 2018 Olympic silver medalist South Korea, then 2021 World champion Switzerland and finally Canada, skipped by 2014 Olympic champ Jennifer Jones.

The U.S. men need at least one win against Canada, skipped by 2006 Olympic gold medalist Brad Gushue, or host China, or they’ll be in the same 2-4 hole after six games as they were four years ago. In PyeongChang, John Shuster and the U.S. won five consecutive elimination games to grab surprise gold.