Historic bronze makes Elana Meyers Taylor most decorated Black athlete in Winter Olympics history

Bronze medal winners Elana Meyers Taylor and Sylvia Hoffman of Team United States.
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Elana Meyers Taylor raced into the Olympic record books Saturday in Beijing, teaming with U.S. teammate and brakewoman Sylvia Hoffman to capture a bronze medal in the two-woman bobsled event. By earning her fifth Olympic medal, Meyers Taylor becomes the most decorated Black athlete in Winter Olympics history.

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“It’s so crazy to hear that stat and to know that I’m part of a legacy that’s bigger than me,” said the 37-year-old Meyers Taylor. “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.”

The bronze marked the fourth Olympic medal in the two-woman bobsled event for Meyers Taylor, who claimed bronze in 2010 and silvers in 2014 and 2018. The Georgia native already claimed silver in the women’s monobob earlier in the Games.

“There’s a lot of people that came before me: Vonetta Flowers (two-woman bobsled gold in 2002) is the reason I’m here, and (speed skater) Shani Danis, and even Erin Jackson,” said Meyers Taylor, who was also quick to give credit to Hoffman as well. “It’s just been such a long legacy of Black athletes at the Winter Olympics and hopefully it just continues.”

Meyers Taylor now stands as the most decorated woman bobsledder in the sport’s history, and she’s the first U.S. athlete outside of ice hockey to win a medal in the same event at four consecutive Olympic Winter Games. The bronze-medal win also made her the second U.S. woman to win at least five Winter Olympics medals, after speed skater Bonnie Blair (five gold, one bronze).

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Germany swept gold and silver, with Laura Nolte and Deborah Levi earning the win with a combined time of 4:03.96, and Mariama Jamanka and Alexandra Burghardt finishing second at +0.77 back. Meyers Taylor and Hoffman finished at 4:05:48, +1.52 behind the winners.

The American duo moved into the bronze-medal position with clean runs in the first two heats, finishing at 2:02:79. In their final two runs Saturday, they retained their position after their third run – their fastest at 1:01:13 – and fourth (1:01:56).

Beijing marked the first Olympic appearance for Hoffman. The 32-year-old from Philadelphia was recruited into the sport in 2018 after participating in the reality show, “Scouting Camp: The Next Olympic Hopeful.” She didn’t win anything there, but Hoffman did catch the eye of coaches who invited her to a rookie “push camp” in Lake Placid, N.Y. She won the rookie event and went onto win the national push championships.

“There has been so much work trying to get to this point,” said Hoffman, who was diagnosed with scoliosis at age 12 and wore a back brace for 16-18 hours a day as a teenager to avoid corrective surgery. “Squeezing four years into two and a half years for this particular plan, having to change my entire program.

“Me and Elana – we hadn’t raced together (before lead-up to Beijing), we had like one race this World Cup season, so we had to put in a lot of work just so we could get on the same page.”

Meyers Taylor punched her fist in the air as she reached the finish line after her final run, and she hinted at retirement after Beijing in her post-competition interview.

“I’m going to take some time to really think about this,” said Meyers Taylor, who shares 2-year-old son Nico with husband and fellow U.S. bobsled athlete Nic Taylor. “It’s going to be really hard to top this Olympics. … I still love driving a bobsled. I’ve still got the legs for it, but as far as the Olympic Games, it’s too early to tell but we’ll see what happens.”

She got some unfinished business to attend to first: After testing positive for COVID-19 shortly after her arrival in China and missing out on Opening Ceremony, where she was selected as one of the U.S. flag bearers, she was selected to lead Team USA into the Closing Ceremony as flag bearer.

“There’s so many great athletes they could have chosen,” said Meyers Taylor. “The fact that they recognized what a big deal it was to be chosen at the Opening Ceremony and gave me the opportunity to walk anyway in Closing… I can’t even put into words what that means to me, and I can’t wait to get out there on the floor and experience it.”

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Justine Wong-Orantes’ atypical path to becoming one of the best liberos in the world

Justine Wong-Orantes hits the ball in the women's semi-final volleyball match between USA and Serbia during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
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It’s been 20 years since the same nation held both the Olympic and world volleyball titles at the same time, but libero Justine Wong-Orantes is looking to help lead Team USA accomplish that very feat at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championships in the Netherlands and Poland. Competition began on Friday and the U.S. is currently 2-0 after group play wins against Kazakhstan and Canada.

“We’re trying to win, for sure,” Wong-Orantes told On Her Turf. “I think, especially with the new turn of the program and the new year of the quad, we just have a really nice blend of veterans and also newcomers on the team.”

The 14-woman roster for Team USA, which is ranked No. 1 in the world and won its first Olympic title last summer, features six players from that gold-medal-winning team. And while Wong-Orantes is among the 2021 U.S. Olympic team veterans, she’s still a relative newcomer to international play.

The Southern California native enjoyed a notable junior career – she was 12 when she became the youngest female to ever earn an AAA rating in beach volleyball – and was a standout collegian at Nebraska, where she was a member of the 2015 NCAA championship team. But Wong-Orantes followed a different path upon graduation, initially choosing not to go overseas to play professionally.

While she was first selected for the U.S. national team in 2016 and played a handful of international tournaments in the following years, it wasn’t until she started playing professionally in Germany in 2019 that she saw the potential to elevate her position on the roster. In particular, the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics gave her an additional year of overseas experience, which she calls “a blessing in disguise.”

“I just felt like I was still in that developmental stage,” she said. “And a whole year postponement allowed me to go overseas and really get all the touches, all the repetitions, and just kind of expose myself to international volleyball another year. So I was, in hindsight, pretty thankful for that COVID season because I got an extra year under my belt, and I think that just gave me a ton of confidence.”

Ahead of the Olympics, Wong-Orantes earned “best libero” honors at the 2021 FIVB Volleyball National League in Rimini, Italy, which helped secure her spot on the Olympic roster. In Tokyo, she followed up with another standout performance and was named best libero of the Olympic tournament.

As to how the Wong-Orantes transformed into one of the world’s top liberos, she points to her background as a beach volleyball player. She began competing at age 8, and her first partner was Sara Hughes, a star on the AVP Pro Tour who also won two NCAA titles with USC.

“I think having that background and just the court awareness that beach volleyball forces you to have allowed me to really have a good read on the game,” said Wong-Orantes. “I think that’s what makes a great libero is just reading and always being reactive towards the ball.”

Wong-Orantes also credits the assistance of mental coach Sue Enquist, a former UCLA softball coach and U.S. national team coach, who now helps teams work on their culture and relationships. Enquist began working with the U.S. volleyball team during the pandemic and has continued in her role ever since.

“We just worked on a lot of stuff within ourselves, within our program, how to communicate with each other off the court, and I think that honestly propelled us into such a high, high level with how we worked with each other, and then that transferred onto the court,” explained Wong-Orantes, who noted the team has Enquist on speed dial while at the World Championship. “I really commend Sue. I just really give a lot of praise to her because I think our culture was never bad, but I think [she] just transformed into a different level.”

2022-09-26 - FIVB Volleyball Womens World Championship 2022 - Day 4
ARNHEM, NETHERLANDS – Justine Wong-Orantes (far right) poses for a photo with her U.S. teammates after defeating Canada at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship on September 26, 2022. (Photo by Rene Nijhuis/Orange Pictures/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

Wong-Orantes said she and her U.S. teammates are on their toes for the world championships, which features twice as many teams (24) as the Olympics and a “more grueling” format.

“It’s going to be a long tournament, and I think we’re really going to need all 14 of us that are here. I’m pretty certain that, at any given moment, someone’s going to be called on and someone’s going to need to step up in big moments.”

2022 Ascendant LPGA: How to watch, who’s playing in Texas’s annual signature event

Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand hits her second shot on the 16th hole during the final round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.
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The LPGA make its annual stop in The Colony, Texas, this week for the 10th edition of the Ascendant LPGA benefiting Volunteers of America, where Thailand’s 19-year-old rookie Atthaya Thitikul comes in hot off her second career win and second playoff victory this season at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.

Leading the 132-player field at Old American Golf Club, located at Golf Clubs at The Tribute, are Texas residents and past champions Cheyenne Knight and Angela Stanford. They’ll compete for the $1.7 million prize purse alongside major champions Nelly KordaLydia Ko and Brooke Henderson. Last year’s Ascendant LPGA champion, world No. 1 Jin Young Ko, will not be defending her title after announcing earlier this month she would be missing several weeks due to a nagging wrist injury.

This past weekend in Arkansas, Thitikul took the lead with a 10-under 61 in the second round and shot 68 in the final round to finish regulation tied with Danielle Kang at 17-under 196. Thitikul, who won the JTBC Classic in March in a two-hole playoff vs. Nanna Koerstz Madsen, drained an 8-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to secure the win over Kang.

How to watch the 2022 Ascendant LPGA 

Coverage of the 2022 Ascendant LPGA from Old American Golf Club in The Colony, Texas, can be found on Golf Channel, with streaming options available any time on any mobile device and online through NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

  • Thursday, Sept. 29: 12:30-3:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Friday, Sept. 30: 12:30-3:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Saturday, Oct. 1: 1-4 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Sunday, Oct. 2: 1-4 p.m. ET, Golf Channel

Who’s playing in the 2022 Ascendant LPGA

Six of the top 10 players in the Rolex World Rankings are among the field in Texas, including:

  • No. 2 Nelly Korda
  • No. 4 Lydia Ko
  • No. 5 Atthaya Thitikul
  • No. 6 Brooke Henderson
  • No. 7 Lexi Thompson
  • No. 10 Nasa Hataoka

A number of local Texans also are in the tournament, headlined by past champions, Angela Stanford (2020) and Cheyenne Knight (2019), and two junior champions of the Volunteers of America Classic Girls Championship, who are playing on a sponsor exemption: Yunxuan (Michelle) Zhang (2022), a freshman at SMU, and Avery Zweig (2021), a high school sophomore from McKinney, Texas.

Past five champions of The Ascendant LPGA

2021 Jin Young Ko (South Korea) 16-under 268 1 stroke Matilda Castren
2020 Angela Stanford (USA) 7-under 277 2 strokes So Yeon Ryu, Inbee Park, Yealimi Noh
2019 Cheyenne Knight (USA) 18-under 266 2 strokes Brittany Altomare, Jaye Marie Green
2018 Sung Hyun Park (South Korea) 11-under 131 1 stroke Lindy Duncan
2017 Haru Nomura (Japan) 3-under 281 Playoff Christie Kerr

Last time at The Ascendant LPGA

South Korea’s Jin Young Ko carded a final-round 69 to maintain her 54-hole lead at Old American Golf Club and held on for a one stroke win at the 2021 Volunteers of America Classic, her eighth career LPGA tour title. Ko finished regulation at 16-under 268, edging Finland’s Matilda Castren by one stroke.

It kicked off a five-win season for Ko, who had just lost her No. 1 ranking to Nelly Korda the week prior after holding the top spot for 100 straight weeks. She regained the No. 1 ranking back in October 2021, after earning her fourth win in seven starts at the BMW Ladies Championship.

More about Old American Golf Club

Opened in 2010, the Old American Golf Club is one of two clubs at The Tribute, a lakefront resort community on Lewisville Lake in The Colony, Texas. Designed by Tripp Davis and 12-time PGA Tour winner Justin Leonard, Old American plays as a Par 71 and stretches to 6,475 yards on the tournament scorecard.