IBSF athletes talk about their comeback plans as new moms
>> Interview as PDF
Lake Placid / Calgary (RWH) For Women’s Equality Day 2020 on August 26, we team up for an in-depth interview with US Bobsleigh pilot Elana Meyers Taylor and Canadian Skeleton athlete Elisabeth Maier. Both are new moms, Elana’s son Nico was born in February, Elisabeth‘s son Hendrix in December 2019. Both are working hard to make their comeback for the 2020/2021 winter.
First and most important question: How are you and the little boys?
Elisabeth Maier: I am good! The hardest part by far is the sleep, little H likes to wake up lots still in the night. But he is happy and healthy, and so am I!
Elana Meyers Taylor: Nico is great! He takes after his father – he’s an extremely happy boy. He eats just like a bobsledder and is massive – which is fun but also straining on your back! He has some medical issues that keep us busy, but I’m so happy to be his mom!
We already saw a lot of training stuff on your social media since the kids were born. What’s different in training with having a baby?
Elana: Prior to having a baby, my entire day was focused on training. I’ve always worked in addition to training, but training was the focus and everything else came second. I woke up each day working to maximize my training and recover as much as possible. With a baby? I have to be extremely adaptable! Some days I’m going to only get 4 hours of sleep and have to find a way to train. Some days I forget to eat between training and taking care of Nico. Even in some training sessions I’ve had to stop to breastfeed! But above anything else, Nico gives me a whole new level of motivation. He’s at most of my sessions with my husband, Nic, and when I look over at them I have a renewed sense of energy, regardless of how little I’ve slept!
Also, my body is different. I had an emergency c-section, which caused a longer recovery than I expected. It’s taken a bit of time to get used to training hard for bobsled – lots of lifting and short sprints – but also picking up, playing with, and breastfeeding a baby. At the beginning my back hurt all the time, but now my body is starting to adjust.
Elisabeth: The rest times don’t necessarily depend on what I need rather, what H needs, sometimes mid sessions we would need to take a pause so that I could breastfeed or rearrange session times around H’s naps!
What are the biggest challenges or maybe also benefits while training now?
Elisabeth: One of the biggest challenges is being patient with myself, knowing that having H came with a pretty heavy surgery, and my body needed to take time to recover. And my focus is not on just me, and my needs anymore, I have a little boy I need to watch over and take care of. I have a new purpose in sport since becoming a mama; to encourage my son to chase his dreams, and inspire mamas around the world to chase their goals too – so there is definitely a huge benefit having that motivational fire lit again.
Elana: I think one of the biggest challenges is actually “mom guilt.” When I’m training, it’s hard to focus on just training when I have Nico and I know there are things I can be doing to help his development. I should be reading to him or doing tummy time with him – not training. But I know being an athlete makes me a better mom because it allows me to have goals and go for them – which is one of the greatest things I can teach Nico.
The benefits are numerous! One is the added motivation. When you’re tired and don’t feel like training, I remember why I’m doing this – to show my son that anything is possible and to go after your dreams – and I want him to be a part of them. Also, when I have a bad day, Nico doesn’t care! He still gives me the best smile and loves me whether I win every race or never bobsled again.
Elana Meyers Taylor (35, USA, 2-woman Bobsleigh), pilot and former push athlete
- 3 Olympic medals (bronze 2010 as push athlete, silver 2014 and 2018 as pilot)
- World Champion 2015 and 2017
- 18 victories in BMW IBSF World Cup, overall World Cup winner in 2015
- Married with former US push athlete Nic Taylor
Elisabeth Maier (26, neé Vathje, CAN, Women’s Skeleton)
- World Championships bronze medallist 2015
- 3 victories in BMW IBSF World Cup, a total of 12 podium placings
- 2018 Olympian in PyeongChang, finished 9th
- Married with Austrian Bobsleigh pilot Benjamin Maier
You both took the last season off because of the pregnancy. What are your next steps now to qualify for your national teams?
Elana: In order to qualify, I’ll have to race US team trials in October and win. Kaillie Humphries is automatically on the team based on her World Championship win last season, so I’ll need to beat out all the other US pilots in order to be one of the two funded sleds on the World Cup tour this season.
Elisabeth: Canadian team trials are to take place in both Whistler and Lake Placid, we have three competitions to determine the national team. It is a bit tricky because we have less World Cup and ICC spots as we did in previous years, so the competition will be extra fierce.
If you qualify – what are your goals for the first season as „Sliding Mom“ and beyond?
Elisabeth: First goal this season is to qualify for World Cup, and work to get consistent on World Cup again. For the future my sights are set on the podium in the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games.
Elana: Win World Championships in both 2-woman and monobob and then win two Olympic Gold medals in Beijing in 2022. I also would like to break start records again, but I know that will take time. The first season, my focus is on winning World Championships and getting better each week to build into it. The goal in my first season back is not to win every race, but to peak in time for the World Championships. After 2022? I know I want to have more children, so we’ll have to wait to see if bobsledding and multiple children are in my future.
Your both husbands are also involved in the sport, so they compete as new „Sliding Dads“. Where do you see the differences between moms and dads actively competing?
Elana: I think the biggest difference is returning to sport after what our bodies have been through. It’s a long road to recovery, and including breastfeeding, your body is constantly changing. Also, because you are your child’s primary source of food while breastfeeding, it definitely plays into your training and organizing everything is essential. Nic has also had to alter his training as a Dad as well. He takes care of Nico while I train and has to somehow find a way to get in his training and also continue his schooling to be a physio. He also takes the night shift with Nico, making sure I can get as much rest as possible, but that leaves him sleep deprived often. I definitely couldn’t do this without him.
Elisabeth: I think sliding dads don’t get the credit they deserve, there are many papas involved in bobsled & skeleton that are away from their families for long stretches. I am incredibly lucky that Benny is an active athlete, and if all goes to plan we will be on the same circuit together. Benny is a rockstar dad, and although both him and I have had to figure out when is work time and when is family time, and as that process continues through the next two seasons, our goal is to be able to balance that while competing at our highest levels.
Make a wish – what would help you most to be successful in preparation and during the season?
Elisabeth: Corona Virus to magically disappear (I think that’s everyones wish right now!!!). But Benny is having to head back to Austria August 28th, and due to Corona quarantine laws, we will be unable to see him probably until November! So my ultimate wish would be to be together as a family.
Elana: Quality childcare! With the situation with Covid it’s been difficult to make plans for childcare during the season. We actually still haven’t fully figured this part out- especially as it will be difficult for our family to just fly in for short periods to help out.
Have you an advise for new and future sliding moms if they want to successfully combine the lifes as athlete and mom?
Elana: Start saving money now! I was fortunate that I saved my prize money from the Olympic season and any medal money from the Olympics in 2018 in order to help with costs. Also, there are definitely days where you will doubt if it’s possible to do, but just take it one day at a time and you’ll find a way.
Elisabeth: DO IT! It’s hard, but if you have the support system around you, chase your goals & go after your dreams. I think that is both for moms in and out of sliding, and no mom Shaming – we’re all doing our best, and we need to support each other, go out of your way to check on that mom friend of yours, she might need some encouragement.
I am thankful for the new & experienced moms around me that have gone out of their way to check in, including Elana, I am lucky to have a mama in a similar situation to me where we can bounce ideas off of each other, encourage one another, and help support each other so that we know that we are not in this alone! (albeit we are many km’s away from each other, the virtual support has been awesome!)
Photos: Elana Meyers Taylor, Elisabeth Maier, IBSF / Viesturs Lacis, IBSF / Eugen Eslage