Inside Elana Meyers Taylor's Journey to Become Most Decorated Black Athlete in Winter Olympics History

Bobsledder and mother of one Elana Meyers Taylor made Olympics history in Beijing after recovering from a COVID-19 infection, which forced her to isolate from her husband and toddler son.

By Corinne Heller Feb 19, 2022 10:36 PMTags
Watch: 2022 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony: Must-See Moments

Even a COVID-19 infection that isolated her from her family and nearly broke her spirit could not stop Elana Meyers Taylor from making history at the Winter Olympics, her first since becoming a mom.

On Saturday, Feb. 19, the 37-year-old Team USA competitor won the bronze medal in the two-woman bobsleigh at the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing, making her the most decorated Black athlete of any Winter Olympics and the most decorated female Olympic bobsledder of all time. The California native, who was raised in Georgia, now has five medals and shared her latest win with bobsledding partner Sylvia Hoffman.

"Hopefully it just encourages more and more black athletes to come out to winter sports and not just black athletes, winter sports for everybody," Taylor said about the victory, according to CNN. "We want everybody to come out regardless of the color of your skin. We want winter sports to be for everybody, regardless of race, regardless of socio-economic class...I think the more diversity we have, the stronger our sport can be. So hopefully this is just the start of more and more people coming out and trying winter sports."

Athletes Who Made History at the 2022 Beijing Olympics

The 2022 Winter Olympics, Taylor's fourth, are set to end with a Closing Ceremony Sunday, Feb. 20, where she will serve as Team USA's flagbearer. Taylor was supposed to be the flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony that took place Feb. 4 but had to pull out of the event after testing positive for COVID-19 on Jan. 29, upon her arrival in in Beijing with her husband, Nic Taylor—an alternate Team USA bobsledder—and son Nico, who will turn 2 next week.

Michael Kappeler/picture alliance via Getty Images

Taylor, who is thrice-vaccinated, spent about a week in a quarantine hotel and was forced to isolate in a room separate from those of her husband, child and father, despite all of them also being infected with the virus.

"To be away from them at the most critical time when I need their support has been really difficult," Taylor told USA Today, adding that she cried at least once every day while in isolation. "With all [Nico's] disabilities, I didn't know how he would be, being away from me."

Nico was born prematurely by emergency C-section and was then diagnosed with hearing loss and Down syndrome.

"But he's handling it like a champ," Taylor continued. "He misses his mommy, of course. He misses his daddy. But he's a trooper. He's the greatest kid in the world."

While in isolation, the family lived under strict COVID-19 safety restrictions. "Everything feels like it's crumbling. You lose all sense of control," Taylor told USA Today. "You can't even open your door. You can't choose what you want to eat. You can't choose anything. You get all your control taken away from you."

After she left isolation, Taylor suffered from brain fog, a common COVID-19 symptom. She told Yahoo! Sports it was "hard to even focus on bobsled," adding, "I just couldn't clear my head."

He Changshan/Xinhua via Getty Images

On Instagram, she wrote, "Isolation was rough. Definitely hasn't been the easiest road but I'm out and working to get ready to take on the world. Step by step- we'll get there- thanks for being by my side. #Beijing2022."

Earlier this week, Taylor placed second at the women's monobob final. With her recent win, she is also the first woman to win two bobsled medals at the same Winter Olympics.

After her victory, she shared an Instagram video of her little boy playing with her silver medal.

"The moment I've dreamed of," she wrote. "Olympic Silver."

Also during her recent Olympic run, Taylor continued to breastfeed. She had to pump and get her milk to Nico while training and preparing for her races at Beijing, USA Today reported.

Taylor previously won silver medals at the two-woman bobsleigh events at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics and 2014 Sochi Olympics, and also took home the bronze at the same competition during her Olympic debut at the 2010 Games in Vancouver.

Anton Novoderezhkin\TASS via Getty Images

The road to the 2022 Olympics was not easy. Taylor took a season off to have Nico. After he was born, she contemplated quitting the sport she loves to concentrate on raising her child.

"The moment he was born, he became my sole focus and I was going to do whatever I needed to take care of him," Taylor told NBC Sports. "If that meant giving up bobsled, that's what was going to happen."

Ultimately, she found a work-life balance that worked for her. Taylor has often brought her family with her to training sessions and competitions. 

Nowadays, her boy helps inspire her even more.

"I think one of the hardest things sometimes is being at a race and knowing that you had a rough night with Nico and that's not something all your competitors are dealing with," she told NBC Sports. "But then i remember he is the reason that I'm still bobsledding to this day, because I wanted to prove to him that just because you have stuff to overcome, it doesn't mean you have to stop going after your dreams."

In January, more than a week before the start of the Winter Olympics, Taylor tweeted, "Nico is my reason. I was put on this earth to be his Mommy. So proud to show him the world through bobsled!"

Last December, Taylor wrote on Instagram, alongside a photo of herself holding Nico at the Bobsleigh World Cup in Winterberg, Germany, "You are my greatest inspiration. With you in my arms, I've already won."

Check out E! News' 2022 Beijing Olympics homepage for news, photos and more.