For a largely obscure sport — at least to almost everyone who isn't German — bobsled nearly stole the show at the 2022 Winter Olympics.
The men's two- and four-man races, as well as the two-woman competition, primarily demonstrated Germany's sliding sport dominance at these Games. Through luge, skeleton, and bobsled, Germany won nine of 10 possible gold medals; bobsled pilot Friedrich Francesco earned two, while Laura Nolte clinched one.
But the Olympic debut of monobob, a second women's bobsledding event, broke the German stranglehold. More importantly, it offered an opportunity for two of the United States' most resilient, compelling, and decorated athletes to truly shine — specifically, as the final two heats aired immediately after Super Bowl LVI, when practically the entire country had its eyes glued to a screen.
Last, but not least: After a 24-year absence, Jamaica returned for some (not-so) cool runnings in the four-man race. The Caribbean bobsledders went airborne at least once, kissed a lucky egg, and finished 4.20 seconds off the lead at the midpoint of the two-man race. Which is to say: Mission accomplished.
Relive all the bobsled history made on the Yanqing National Sliding Centre's highly technical and tricky Xiaohaituo Bobsled and Luge Track, nicknamed "The Dragon."
USA's Humphries and Meyers Taylor triumph in women's races
WOMEN'S MONOBOB MEDALISTS | SEE FULL RESULTS HERE
GOLD: Kaillie Humphries, USA, 4:19.27
SILVER: Elana Meyers Taylor, USA, (+1.54)
BRONZE: Christine de Bruin, CAN, (+1.76)
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The United States' four-time Olympians Kaillie Humphries and Elana Meyers Taylor each arrived at the 2022 Winter Olympics with a sterling resume and something to prove in a (most likely) final Games appearance.
Then-two-time Olympic gold medalist (and one-time bronze winner) Humphries, a Calgary native who previously represented Canada, officially became an American citizen just this past December. Not long after the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, she left Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton and then her home country, citing ongoing abuse allegations against the Canadian federation. Soon, Humphries ended up in California, and with a fiance not long after. But she never wanted to stop sledding.
Though she represented the United States at international tournaments these past few years, Humphries could not compete on the country's behalf at the 2022 Games unless her legal status changed. Once she secured a passport and a social security number, the 36-year-old decided she needed only an Olympic medal to further cement her status as an American, and one of the greatest bobsledders of all time.
Meyers Taylor, 37, was born in California, but raised in Douglasville, Georgia, where she currently resides. She won Olympic bronze in the two-woman at Vancouver 2010, then silver at Sochi 2014 and PyeongChang 2018. Meyers Taylor also grew her family this last quadrennial: Elana and her husband, Nic, welcomed son Nico a month before the pandemic hit in February 2020.
Nico was born prematurely, diagnosed with Down syndrome and significant hearing loss. Elana has worked with charities such as Gigi's Playground to address her child's needs. She took Nico on tour with her this past season as she continued to breastfeed. While the 2021-22 Bobsled World Cup series led her to Altenberg, Sigulda, and St. Moritz, Nic or another family member would always provide care for Nico when she couldn't.
"It's been a learning experience the entire time," Meyers Taylor recently told NBC News. "All the ups and downs, it's worth it. Because I know when I go home at night, he's gonna love me whether I have the best run of my life or the worst. And having that sense of family every single day — there's nothing that can take that place."
Both Meyers Taylor and Humphries have been advocates for female equity in their sport, which has helped lead to the addition of Olympic monobob. While Meyers Taylor's primary goal for these Games remained the same — win medals — her reasoning differed.
"I don't want any woman to choose between a family and an athletic career," Meyers Taylor told NBCOlympics.com in an interview. She intended to lead by example at the 2022 Olympics: "Hopefully by me competing, we’re starting to show that ... mothers can go after their dreams and still figure out how to make it work, while being a mother as well. I don’t want you to be limited based off your desire to have a family.”
Meyers Taylor also wanted to fulfill a new dream, one in which she hung a shiny new Olympic medal around her son's neck.
But shortly after she landed in China, her story took a dramatic turn: She tested positive for COVID-19, and had to produce two negative tests for officials before getting to the ice. While in quarantine, the asymptomatic Meyers Taylor was elected Team USA's Opening Ceremony flagbearer alongside curler John Shuster. Because she was stuck in isolation, Meyers Taylor bestowed the honor upon speed skater Brittany Bowe — "who is an incredible person and just as much deserving to carry the flag as I was," she later said.
Following about a week in quarantine, Meyers Taylor was cleared to compete on February 5th. She spent her time in isolation preparing for her races as best she could, exercising with equipment provided to her by Team USA and studying the course on video.
After so much difficulty just getting to the starting line, expectations for Meyers Taylor were lukewarm as she prepared to race the first two heats on Saturday, February 12th. Quarantine had limited her time on and around the track, and who knew how it had affected her fitness?
Regardless, she managed to rank fourth at the midpoint of the race. Humphries, meanwhile, stood firmly in first.
In the final monobob heats — aired on broadcast TV immediately after Super Bowl LVI — Humphries claimed her third Olympic gold with a lead of over a second. Meyers Taylor leapfrogged two spots and earned silver.
Later that week, Humphries and Meyers Taylor competed again in their traditional two-woman race. This time, Humphries and partner Kaysha Love fell behind the German teams and ended in fifth standing. Meyers Taylor, with pusher Sylvia Hoffman, secured a hard-fought bronze. (Details below).
On Sunday, Meyers Taylor served as the Closing Ceremony flagbearer.
She told NBCOlympics.com she now plans to celebrate Nico's upcoming birthday with an Elmo-themed party for family.
The hard truth is, no one feature profile, results page, or video interview can do either of these women justice. Each has accomplished so much in roles that extend far beyond bobsled, whether as a mother, immigrant, citizen, or feminist fighting for equity.
Even without the medals, Humphries and Meyers Taylor would have triumphed at the 2022 Winter Olympics.
GERMANY CONTINUES SLIDING SPORT DOMINATION
TWO-WOMAN | SEE FULL RESULTS HERE
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Germany's Laura Nolte, who missed monobob bronze by 0.30 seconds, sailed to victory without a hitch. It was the 23-year-old's first Olympic medal.
Compatriot Mariama Jamanka blazed through four heats, but didn't need much to secure a silver considering her significant lead over third.
Team USA's Elana Meyers Taylor became the most decorated female bobsledder of all time with a bronze-medal win, her fifth overall medal
TWO-MAN | SEE FULL RESULTS HERE
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Germany not only won its seventh of eight contested sliding sport events at the 2022 Winter Olympics with Francesco Friedrich's first-place finish in two-man bobsled – the country also swept the podium.
In doing so, Germany became the first nation to sweep the podium in any Olympic bobsled event, and the only to claim all three medals in a single event at the 2022 Winter Games.
After four heats, it was Friedrich, Johannes Lochner, Christoph Hafer in first, second, and third. With his victory, 13-time world champion Friedrich successfully defended his first of two PyeongChang 2018 golds.
FOUR-MAN | SEE FULL RESULTS HERE
GOLD: Team Friedrich, GER, 3:54.30
SILVER: Team Lochner, GER, (+ 0.37)
BRONZE: Team Kripps, CAN, (+ 0.79)
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In the final bobsled race of the 2022 Winter Olympics, Germany struck gold with Francesco Friedrich and earned silver via Johannes Lochner — but Canada's PyeongChang 2018 co-gold medalist Justin Kripps spoiled a potential second bobsled podium sweep by all of 0.06 seconds.
By winning the four-man race, Friedrich — Germany's Opening Ceremony flagbearer — successfully defended both his two-man and four-man Olympic titles, and became the first bobsledder in history to win two golds at consecutive Olympics. Lochner earned his second silver of these Games.
When all was said and done across the three sliding sports, Germany dominated with 16 of 30 available medals in luge, skeleton, and bobsled.
Feel the rhythm in monobob: Jazmine Fenlator, who previously competed for the United States, did the best of all Jamaican bobsledders. She finished 19th on a tough course.
Feel the rhyme in two-man: He finished last without a fourth heat, but pilot Shanwayne Stephens should have started a viral sensation when he ended his first two heats 4.20 seconds off the top.
IT'S BOBSLED TIME! Could any single heat be anywhere near as compelling, hilarious, and heartwarming as Jamaica's four-man final run, which saw the sled literally ride against a sidewall, a finish time 8.25 seconds off the lead, and athletes exit the course by hugging, patting shoulders, and smooching a lucky egg?
RECORDS, BY THE NUMBERS
- Won a medal in every women's bobsled event since 2002 debut
Elana Meyers Taylor
- Most decorated female bobsledder of all time, with 5 medals (3 silver, 2 bronze)
- Most decorated Black athlete in Winter Olympics history
- Oldest American woman to win a medal at the Winter Olympics (37 years, 127 days)
- 1st gold medalist in Olympic monobob
- Only podium sweep at 2022 Winter Olympics, two-man bobsled
- Won 3 of 4 contested bobsled events, 9 of 10 sliding sport events
- First bobsledder to win 2 golds at consecutive Olympics