Ex-Rochester star Williams eyes Olympic double
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Lauryn Williams' transition from Olympic track and field star to bobsled hopeful has been humbling and successful, not to mention a bit terrifying.
As fast as Williams was on land, it's a different experience rocketing down an icy track in a 400-pound sled at speeds up to 90 mph.
“I knew so little (the first time down the track), and I ran and jumped in, and it was just a combination of swearing and praying the whole way down,” said Williams, a former Rochester High star who won WPIAL and PIAA track titles. “I thought, ‘I don't know what I got myself into,' and I was 50-50 whether I was going to come back the next day.”
Elite athletes such as Williams aren't known for backing down from challenges, however, and she returned the next day. Williams, who announced her retirement from track competition in June, finished third in the 2013 Women's Bobsled Push Championships in Calgary in July. She, fellow Olympic track star Lolo Jones and seven other women were named to Team USA at the end of October and are in the midst of the competition season that will play a large part in determining who goes to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in February.
No female U.S. track and field Olympic athlete has competed in the Winter Games. The team will be announced Jan. 19.
Jazmine Fenlator, who drove the sled with Jones as the pusher in last year's World Cup circuit, ran track at Rider, and her coach not only suggested she consider bobsled but also submitted an athletic resume on her behalf.
“I thought it was a joke at first, watching “Cool Runnings” growing up, and I'm half Jamaican so I was like, ‘Come on, Coach, this isn't funny,' ” she said. “But I always grew up knowing that if a door opens, you never know what's on the other side. Take a risk because it could lead you down another path.”
Fenlator said the training for bobsled is similar to track and field.
“Our sled is 400 pounds, and you have to accelerate and propel that, and that's what you do as a track and field athlete,” she said. “You're propelling your body weight as fast as possible, whether you're long jumping, throwing an implement or running the 100 meters.”
Learning the bobsled equipment and nuances of the sport is the challenging part, Fenlator said. There are only a certain number of tracks in the world, athletes have only a limited amount of time to spend on those tracks, and they also serve as their own mechanics and caddies. Growing comfortable with the speed and gravitational forces adds another layer to the process.
Williams, who was recruited by Jones, said it was humbling to be a “fish out of water,” taking direction from others and becoming a student again after so many years of competing as an elite athlete on the track.
“I saw the run and jump-in part (of bobsled) and thought that was the extent of it, but a lot goes on behind the scenes,” Williams said.
Williams is aware that competing in the Summer and Winter Olympics would land her in rare company, but that isn't why she's doing it.
“I didn't get into this to be famous or be one of the few black female bobsledders or first to compete in the winter and summer,” she said. “That's all really cool, but I'm here more for the adventure and the fun, to add another story to my life.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Snow, freezing rain, bitter cold coming to Western Pa.
- Southbound McKnight Road closed for power line repairs
- Tennessee quarterback Peterman considers transfer to Pitt
- Jerome Bettis to be enshrined in hall of fame
- Fallingwater among Wright buildings nominated for World Heritage List
- Iraqi libraries ransacked
- Familiar Downtown Pittsburgh presence lost arm, leg to train
- Suggestions are aplenty on what Penguins need to break through
- Pa. Turnpike claims software fraud, wants $45M
- Gulls fleeing frozen Great Lakes fill skies over Pittsburgh’s Point
- Voters opt for ‘Don’t Know’ in 2016 presidential race, poll finds