Every two years the Olympics hold a special place in the country’s heart for two whole weeks — and the athletes who represent us quickly become a part of our lives and our culture in a way that extends well beyond their time competing. For Elana Meyers Taylor, a two-time Olympic medalist in bobsleigh, maintaining a positive presence wherever she is and carrying herself as a representative of Team USA extends far beyond her time in the sleigh.
“Giving back to my community is so important to me because I wouldn’t be where I am today without my community," Meyers Taylor told Her Campus. As a seasoned athlete (who had originally hoped to head to the Olympics as softball player before she found bobsledding), Meyers Taylor is keenly aware of the different kinds of intersecting biases, setbacks and obstacles that can stand between some of the best players and their dreams.
And, because of that, her work with Procter & Gamble’s "Thank You, Mom" #LoveOverBias campaign is the ideal match.
“[The] program really hits the nail on the head when it comes to highlighting bias based on race, ability, economic stability and more," Meyers Taylor said. "And that really resonated with me.”
The campaign —with an accompanying short video released 100 days before the start of this year’s winter games taking place in Pyeongchang, South Korea— reflected the reality and prejudices that many athletes face in their lives. Ultimately, it reinforced the role that a mother plays in a child’s life as an advocate, supporter and protector of their dreams despite those biases.
“At P&G, we aspire to create a better world for everyone —a world free from bias, with equal representation, equal voices and equal opportunity," Marc Pritchard, P&G Chief Brand Officer, said in a statement. "When the world is more equal, society is better and it leads to economic growth. Unfortunately, equality is limited by biases, and we recognize we can use our voice to be a force for good and shine a light on the bias that limits human potential. We hope to promote open discussion, influence attitudes, and ideally change behaviour."
The heart of the campaign is tackling the tradition of stigma and silence when it comes to talking about biases — to make some worthwhile change. Luckily, for Meyers Taylor, breaking with tradition (with the constant support and love of her mother) is something she's intimately familiar with.
“When I first started I was discouraged pretty often," Meyers Taylor said." I had the strength, speed, and power but for some reason I just wasn’t figuring it out. I remember calling my mom crying and she talked me through my discouragement. She’s been with me through everything, whether it’s in person or over the phone.”
As the first female to drive a four-man bobsled, the work to get there was not easy. However, despite the setbacks, Meyers Taylor said she still knew that being a part of the U.S. Olympic team would be her reality one day.
"I got into the sport because of an Olympic dream," she said. "I knew I wanted to be an Olympian when I was eight-years-old. At first, I wanted to do softball but, when it was taken out of the Olympics, it was recommended I try bobsled. I had no idea what bobsledding even was, so I Googled bobsled and emailed the coach and then eventually joined the team.”
While the journey to find bobsled as her sport came quickly, Meyers Taylor said that refining her skills and reaching her defining moment came a bit slower. She said that even though she wasn't a stand-out in her first year, she trained and slid with a coach up in Calgary, Canada every day.
“I wasn’t very good my first year, but I was willing to work hard," Meyers Taylor said. "...and little by little my technique got better. When I finally had a chance to race, I ended up beating all of the other girls, all because I was able to take the time to practice and really work hard at it.”
Entering her third Winter Olympic games, with a bronze medal from 2010 and a silver from 2014, Meyers Taylor says she's heading into 2018 with a more unconventional approach: "It’s more about performance versus the medal for me. I want to do the best performance of my life, so the approach this year is focused on that.”
With her third Olympic games come even more new sponsorships and partnerships as well, including her most recent collaboration with Pantene as their Gold Series athlete partner for the 2018. Meyers Taylor said that being able to be a role model — and to offer some crucial representation for other young girls of color — is a particularly special opportunity.
“On top of getting this partnership with Pantene, it’s given me really great exposure as well as a platform to show young girls who look like me that their dreams can be reached too," she said. "It’s so important to give back so we can lift other people up to achieve their dreams — just like I’ve been able to achieve mine.”
Meyers Taylor will be competing in the two-woman bobsleigh event at this year’s games. Despite being a veteran competitor at this point, she said that being an Olympian is still “an incredible feeling.”
“It is one of the greatest honors I could ever think of, especially coming from a military family, to be able to represent my country," she said. "Using my talents to share this great love for my country is something I’ve always wanted to do.”