Still wrapping their minds around their bronze-medal win in women's bobsled, U.S. team Erin Pac and Elana Meyers took some time out to speak with NBCOlympics.com about their momentous victory, race preparation, and what their plans are post-Vancouver.
Congratulations on your bronze medal. It hasn't been a full 24-hours since you won, how are you feeling?
Pac: It hasn't really sunk in. I think once we get to the medal ceremony and we have our medals around our necks and we actually get to see it, then I think it will be more real for us.
During the flower ceremony after competition, your lips quivered a little bit, Erin.
Pac: Going up the out run I already started crying but I couldn't get my helmet off so it's alright no one could see me. It's been a long journey and this means more to us than people really know.
Meyers: It has been a lot more intense than people really know and we've had our ups and downs as a team, and we've been together on and off for three years. It's just been a really big struggle the whole time and to be able to come together and win on the world's biggest stage is amazing.
With your bronze medal and Canada's gold and silver medals, these wins mark the first time in 87 Olympic Games that North America has swept the sliding events and you are a part of that. Did you ever imagine?
Pac: It was strange to be in second even after the first day, and with Cathleen [Martini of Germany-2] right behind us, there was actually a big lead going into the second day. It was strange to have that because the Germans are so strong all the time. We expected them to come out in full force here and it was a little shocking.
You had three solid runs heading into the fourth and final run and were in position for a silver medal. Did you feel the pressure?
Pac: We both didn't see much the whole time and it didn't help that our families didn't really see much -- they told us about that. I was just focusing on getting through the track on all four runners because it was a big issue, not just for me but for everyone else. So my main focus was just if we get through the 50-50, we have this. I knew the top would be fine and I wasn't having issues there, and so I just kept focusing on that, kept praying and saying, "Come on, you can do this."
Meyers: I knew as soon as we got through 50-50 that it was over and I looked at her right before. I had the hugest smile on my face and she returned it, and I knew something special was about to happen.
Prior to competition, Erin you mentioned in the press that you didn't feel safe on the Whistler track, especially with the recent training and competition crashes and the tragic loss of a Georgian luger on Day 1 of the Games. Can you elaborate on the mood in Whistler and what you were feeling?
Pac: Safety is always an issue in this sport, going 90-plus miles an hour just wearing a helmet. There's a little bit of a fear factor there and it was difficult to understand how to maneuver the sled in the bottom curves in order to make it safe and not only the women's team, but also the men's team struggled with it. We worked so hard with our coaches just to try to figure out how to do this and do it in six runs, so, you know, the fear was there in every run. I had a lot of trouble through there, not only lost a lot of time, but going into that fourth run my heart was pounding so much just to make it through. I think every pileup felt the same way - maybe not the Canadians because they had so many runs - but I think the coach did an awesome job helping us and helping all the drivers to make it through.
Erin, you also dealt with a minor hamstring injury prior to Olympic competition. How did you handle that heading into the final race?
It was extremely nerve-racking during practice and I broke down during the third day of training because no one wants to come into their first Olympic Games or any Olympic Games at not 100 percent. We decided to take the last day of training off and I just needed to mentally clear my head and get focused for the race. I'm glad we did because going into race day I didn't think about it.
There was also some fog and snow at the start of the third heat. How did this affect you, if at all?
Meyers: I think our last run there was definitely some issues with the snow. Whenever you have a start, whenever snow gets in the grooves, it slows down the starting. They swept the start immediately after Helen [Upperton] went. Then we were up there for the whole run and the grooves were filling up. Once they actually put the sled down I was trying to calm myself down a little, but I waited a little bit too long and kind of slowed down our start, which definitely had an impact.
All three American sleds placed in the top six on Wednesday and all of you turned over equally impressive results this past World Cup season. What do you think this says about the U.S. program, especially in a sport where the Germans have dominated for so long?
Pac: It's awesome! Our coaches have done phenomenal with us, our equipment is awesome thanks to Geoff Bodine and the Bo-Dyn Bobsled Project. And we fight so hard to compete against the Germans all year, and of course, the Canadians. We, as a nation, love our sports. So we're not just coming to the Games to just come to the Games, as someone ranked 15 or higher might -- we're here to win medals.
Meyers: We have some amazing teammates, just amazing from USA-1 all the way down to our spare brakemen. Everyone has been so supportive and we've had teammates be supportive when were at the bottom of the pile all the way to here. It's been great.
Three weeks prior to the Vancouver Games, both of you were in Park City for training, and Erin, you worked with Bob Cuneo (one-half of the Bo-Dyn Bobsled Project with Geoff Bodine) on changing your sled's chassis. Why did you decide to switch it up and why do you think no one else did?
Pac: For me, we were looking to be more consistent in four runs and I trust Bob 100 percent with my career and my life. He came up to me and said, "I want to try this" and I said, "Ok, we have nothing to lose," and it ended up working out for us. I think other people just didn't know and had no idea if it would work or not. It was just a risk we were willing to take.
Do you have any post-Olympic plans?
Pac: I'm going on vacation. My sister is studying abroad in Australia and I got an offer to go to Hawaii.
Meyers: I'm going to driving school. [I'll] make it home first, lay low for a few days. Then I'm going to driving school and trying my hand at something different.
Elana, why make the switch to the front seat now?
Meyers: It's a control issue really -- I like to believe I can control something and the course. Obviously you can't control everything, but I definitely want to try and see. And plus, as a driver you have a little more lifespan support. With brakemen, its usually one or two Games and that's pretty much it. As a driver, you can go for more Games as soon as your skills are proven to compete at a high level. I want to stay in the sport as long as I can and with driving I'm trying to make that possible.
- MacKenzie Wilson