Come Feb. 7, thousands of athletes will make their entrance at the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics while they firmly grasp their country's flag as they get ready to bring home a medal from Sochi, Russia.
Among the American athletes walking through the stadium and waving to the crowd will be Elana Meyers, who along with representing her country, will be representing the city of Atlanta and the Falcons.
Meyers is set to compete in her second Olympics as a member of the U.S. bobsled team, previously winning a bronze medal in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
The 29-year-old’s path to the winter sport is an unlikely one, as the Douglasville, Ga. native grew up playing summer sports such as softball and track.
“At the age of nine I decided I was going to be an Olympian,” Meyers said. “I wasn’t going to let anything stop me so I just needed to find a sport that would get me there.”
At first, she had her mind firmly set on softball – which she played at George Washington University and at a professional level – but fate would lead her elsewhere when she failed to make the team and after the sport was taken out of the Games.
She then turned her focus to bobsledding, the same sport she showed no interest in after her parents recommended it to her when they saw it on TV in 2002. After retiring from softball in 2007, Meyers flew to Lake Placid, N.Y. to try out for the sport and quickly fell in love with it.
“I didn’t really decide on bobsledding, as much as it decided on me,” she said.
Her father, a factor in Meyers’ venture into bobsledding, is also a vital reason of why the Falcons are a big part of her journey to the Olympics.
After graduating a promising linebacker with a future in the NFL, Eddie Meyers bypassed the chance of being drafted to the NFL and instead chose to serve his country as a U.S. Marine.
During his years serving, however, he always had the summers on leave – and he chose to spend those participating in training camp with the Falcons. Although he was unable to play during the regular season because of his obligation to go back to duty in the fall, Eddie spent six summers with the Falcons, from 1982 to 1987.
“I just remember going [to the workout facility] and having McDonald’s and overlooking the camp and just playing with all the kids,” Elana said. “That’s really the fondest memory for me because it was the time when every kid idolizes their dad. Being able to be at work with my dad while I enjoyed having a Happy Meal, what more could a kid ask for?”
Those days spent with the Falcons as a kid not only cemented a life-long fandom for the team, but it also taught her valuable lessons that play a huge part in her life now as an Olympian.
Bobsledding is the ultimate team sport, and watching her dad and the relationships that grew from his time with the Falcons have helped her realize the importance of the effort that’s needed off the field to succeed on the field – or in her case, on the ice.
“Having my dad play for the Falcons, what it did was really expose me to a whole bunch of other elite level athletes … which I think gives me an advantage and allowed me to understand what goes into sports,” she said. “It’s more than going out onto the field or going out to the ice and competing. My dad had great friendships from his time with the Falcons … Those friendships developed through sports are so important. It’s kind of like a family so that’s really what’s impressed upon me as a youngster.”
Despite her busy schedule that includes year-round training packed with two to six hour daily workouts, Elana always tries to make sure she goes back to her roots to catch a Falcons game. In doing so, she’s supporting the team that is now supporting her back as she goes out in front of the world to bring home another medal.
“I think it’s been such a good atmosphere to be in Atlanta; we don’t think of winter Olympians coming from Atlanta,” she said. “So many people are so supportive of what I’m trying to do - to win a gold medal for my country. I am super blessed to be from this city. I love this city. I can’t say enough about all the support that everyone out here has given me.
“Whether it’s my dad’s friends from the Falcons or whether it’s everybody that I know personally or that follows me on Facebook or Twitter, it’s been super exciting to take this journey along with everybody and I’m looking forward to more to come in the future.”