Lauryn Williams' Possible Historic Olympic Run Demands Your Attention

Gabe Zaldivar@gabezalPop Culture Lead WriterFebruary 18, 2014

Feb 16, 2014; Krasnaya Polyana, RUSSIA; United States team member Lauryn Williams working on the team sled during women's bobsleigh training of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Sanki Sliding Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, like each iteration of Games before it, is as much about the stories and vibrant personalities as it is about medal counts and golden hardware. If you have the time, you may just want to take notice of Lauryn Williams, who is trying to etch her name in Olympic history right next to Eddie Eagan. 

For those unfamiliar, Eagan holds the distinction of being the only Olympian to garner gold in both the Summer and Winter Games, winning gold in the 1920 Antwerp Summer Olympics in boxing and helping the four-man bobsled garner the same in the 1932 Games.


Update: Wednesday, Feb. 19 at 1:55 p.m. ET

Unfortunately, Williams was unable to become just the second athlete to win gold at both the Summer and Winter Olympics, instead settling for a highly commendable and wonderful silver medal for her part in Wednesday's bobsled run.

CBS Sports' Evan Hilbert writes, "The American duo needed a strong final run, but had their worst run of the four, finishing in 58.13 seconds and missing out on gold."

End of Update---


Williams, a name that is unfortunately not as popular as some of her colleagues, is pushing USA-1 to a possible golden finish and with it no less than Olympic history. 

Williams and teammate Elana Meyers are in first place with a 0.23-second lead after the first two runs of the competition. Going into the second day, the tandem will hope to stave off Canada's contingent of Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse. 

Dita Alangkara/Associated Press

Not far behind stand USA-2 bobsledders Jamie Greubel and Aja Evans, giving the event a wonderful red, white and blue feel heading into the final two runs. 

If you missed the Olympic subplot, it makes perfect sense. Sochi features as many interesting storylines as it does international athletes—perhaps more. 

Fans have already discussed, debated and mocked toilets, shower curtains, stray dogs, the eyes of Bob Costas and the emotional, if not controversial, interview of Bode Miller.

Heading into the bobsled competition, the discussion focused on Lolo Jones and her unending quest to medal at the Olympics—something that is now unlikely thanks to a tumultuous showing on Tuesday.

There is now hope, though, that the focus could shift to another track star who has made the transition to the bobsled. 

Stacking up against some of the more remarkable Olympic storylines stands one woman who may accomplish the truly astounding.

Williams is already a well-decorated Olympian, winning a silver medal in the 100-meter race at the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics and then taking gold for her part in the 4x100-meter relay at the London Games in 2012. 

Matt Slocum/Associated Press

ESPNW's Jim Caple spoke with Williams about her push to a possible historic finish:

I've thoroughly just been enjoying the time. I showed up and said I wanted to help these girls. And everyone was so nice, so willing to give their time and experience. I haven't really experienced that in any other aspect of my life. So, it was always about me giving to them because they were always giving to me so freely. That's been my whole goal, to give back to them because they were awesome.

If I make history, yeah, that's great, but it's really all about helping.

That help she speaks of has helped turn a summer sprinter into a possible gold medalist in the winter, something that has been as daunting as it sounds. 

Williams, Jones and Evans were recruited for their ability to get off the block and sprint at full speed, something that is crucial in bobsledding. 

The following video illustrates just how effective a sprinter can be in bobsledding: 

Caple writes that the transition hasn't always been so successful for the sprinting contingent on Team USA, especially those who are relatively new to the sport like Williams. 

The entire experience was rough from the start, so much so that Williams states she had the very real notion of giving up. 

"She thought I was going home," Williams remarked about a teammate who once believed any day might be the one she would see the rookie bobsledder leave training.

Williams continues, "And I definitely thought about it the first three or four days. 'What had I gotten myself into?' But I thought I was too far to go back."

Months later, Williams' push to Olympic glory isn't without its missteps. As the Los Angeles Times' Stacy St. Clair (subscription required) reports, Williams and Meyers damaged their sled in Sunday's training run. 

Michael Sohn/Associated Press

While Williams was quick to blame herself for not braking in time, Meyers picked up her teammate quickly:

"She doesn't give herself enough credit. This sport is not easy. It's not easy to come in and push a sled. For Lauryn to come in and be in the No. 1 sled this quickly — that's a true testament to her ability as an athlete."

This was before Williams and Meyers did enough to hold the title, for the moment, as the No. 1 sled in the world at these Games. 

If that remains, the Olympics will have yet another unbelievable story and one that really should trump any remaining "Sochi Problems" hashtag social media superstars can muster. 

Even if their sled remains atop the standings on the final day, it will have to be someone else singing the praises of an absurdly gifted athlete, because you won't get any bombastic speech from the 30-year-old. 

In speaking with Caple, Williams states that she isn't looking for social media run or her image emblazoned on a Wheaties box: 

I didn't come here for fame, for glory, for shine, to get rich or anything. I think whoever gets the attention, it's good for them. And if you guys like covering me, that's awesome. And if you don't, that's cool too. Because I just came here to help Elana.

Feb 16, 2014; Krasnaya Polyana, RUSSIA; United States team member Lauryn Williams working on the team sled during women's bobsleigh training of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Sanki Sliding Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

It's a fitting sentiment for an athlete content to will the sled down the track with her immense power, quickly ducking into obscurity as Meyers drives on to the finish. When the brakes are applied, Williams' head will pop up once again, hopefully this time with far more fanfare at these Games. 

As we have seen, a great deal of the more inane subplots have dissolved as the Sochi Olympics provide salient tales that resonate far more and for far longer with fans. 

With or without gold, Williams' push into a new endeavor has already done that with most who have taken notice. For the rest, the time to ignore this versatile athlete is over. 

The Sochi Olympics may very well see its biggest star rise from the most unlikely of places. 


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