SOCHI, Russia — Lauryn Williams became the first American woman and fifth athlete to medal in the Summer and Winter Olympics at the Sochi Games on Wednesday.
The glitter was not as bright as she had hoped.
The former University of Miami track star fell just short of becoming the first woman and second athlete to win gold medals in both Games as she and Elana Meyers were overtaken by the defending champion Canadian team on the second day of women’s bobsled competition in Sochi.
Nonetheless, the silver puts her in rare company and is more impressive considering she didn’t transition from track to bobsled until last August.
Eddie Eagan is the only other American to medal in both Olympics and the only one to make it double gold, winning in boxing in 1920 and in four-man bobsled in 1932. Williams, who competed in three Summer Olympics, earned a gold medal in the 4X100 relay in the 2012 London Games and silver in the 100 in 2004.
Although bobsled results are based on the combined times of four runs, the final margin was as close as in a type 100-meter dash final, as Canada’s Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse rallied to win by one-tenth of a second.
“I didn’t come here to make history,” Williams said. “I came here to help Team USA, and I feel like I did the best I could. I’m just happy to be here, and it wasn’t about history for me.”
Meyers and Williams began the day leading by .23 seconds, and the Canadians trimmed it to .11 with the fastest time in Wednesday’s first run, in 57.57 seconds on the 17-turn course at the Sanki Sliding Center.
Canada kept the pressure on with a final run of 57.92, the only sled to better 58 seconds with track conditions deteriorating.
With Williams pushing, USA-1 was quicker on the start on the final run, but Meyers hit the wall twice in the early turns and got the sled briefly sideways on the lower course as the gold slipped away, finishing the run in 58.13.
“I fought every single second down the track and Lauryn really dug it out at the start,” Meyers said. “We gave everything we had and left it all out there. … We couldn’t be happier with that, and hopefully America will forgive me for letting gold slip away.”
USA-2, with Jamie Greubel and Aja Evans, hung on to third place to secure the bronze, as the U.S. won two medals for the first time in women’s bobsled.
For Williams, it has been a remarkable journey from neophyte to Olympic champion in six months. She said she was terrified the first time she went down a bobsled run last fall and considered not doing another. But her competitive instinct took over and she medaled in three of four World Cup events.
Nonetheless, her selection as brakeman on the No. 1 U.S. sled was viewed as risky as she had only raced once before with Meyers. Questions remained following a mishap in a training run Saturday when Williams was late applying the brake after crossing the finish line and the sled hit the wall and was damaged.
But Meyers remained supportive of the rookie and they quickly found a comfort zone as a team.
The same skill that took her to an elite level in track and field made Williams an asset in pushing the sled. She and Meyers set a track record in Tuesday’s second run with a start time of 5.12 seconds.
"Anytime I step on any track, ice track, regular track, any kind of track, my goal is to win," Williams said after Tuesday’s runs. "So I'm not surprised at all. We prepared well, we did everything we're supposed to do and we know we're as good as the rest of the field."