2014 Winter Olympics

 

Elana Meyers brings dad along for the ride in pursuit of bobsled gold at Sochi Games

Elana Meyers brings dad along for the ride in pursuit of bobsled gold at Sochi Games

SOCHI, Russia – Eddie Meyers had so many of his NFL dreams stolen away by cruel twists of fate and circumstance that he might know better than anyone how precious an athlete's window of opportunity truly is.

"It is over in the blink of an eye," Meyers told Yahoo Sports. "You never know how many chances you will get."

That is the message Meyers' daughter Elana will take with her down the track at the Sanki Sliding Center on Tuesday and Wednesday as she tries to win bobsled gold with her proud father watching from the stands.

In the early 1980s, Eddie Meyers blossomed into a standout running back at Navy, setting school rushing records and emerging as a serious NFL prospect. The one glaring stumbling block was that he had signed up for a lengthy military commitment back when thoughts of a lucrative pro career were nothing more than an improbable pipe dream.

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Despite repeatedly petitioning Navy chiefs for an exemption, there was none forthcoming. For six years, he give up his entire 30-day leave allocation to attend training camp with the Atlanta Falcons, who signed him to a free-agent contract in 1982 in hopes of finding a loophole. For six years, he was told he was good enough to make the team if he could resolve his military commitments.

At the end of each training camp, he would return to his base frustrated at being within touching distance of the NFL.

"It was hard because you see other people out there living their dreams and I just wanted to go and play football," Meyers said. "It was the kind of thing where it was hard to keep your spirits up and try to remain philosophical."

 

When Meyers' chance finally came, it was too late. He had simply missed too much football to be a significant contributor for the Falcons. Once his release from the Navy was eventually granted in 1987, his opportunities were limited mainly to preseason action and when injury struck, Meyers quickly decided to turn his attention to the world of finance.

Denied his chance to use his athletic skills, Meyers has taken immense pleasure with the emergence of Elana as a star athlete. She looked destined to make the Olympics in softball after a star career at George Washington only to be thwarted when she missed the U.S. team for Beijing in 2008. The sport was then removed from the Summer Games program.

Much like her father, however, there was no quit in Elana. She switched over to bobsled, trained furiously, got accepted into the U.S. program and never looked back. After winning bronze as Erin Pac's brakeperson at the Vancouver Games in 2010, she will now drive with two-time Olympic track gold medalist Lauryn Williams. They are among the favorites for gold here.

"Everyone is proud of their kids, but I might be the most excited guy in the world," Eddie Meyers said. "I have some experience of being an athlete but I don't tell her too much except to make the most of it, realize how lucky you are to have the opportunity and to enjoy it.

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"She is my daughter and she is an Olympian. That's pretty cool and she deserves a lot of good things for all the work she has put in."

Elana only has fleeting memories as a child of her father's days with the Falcons, but they left a lasting impression. She loves talking about him and has mentioned his presence and support several times during interviews before and during the Games.

"Having my dad play for the Falcons, what it did was really to expose me to a whole bunch of other elite-level athletes, which I think gives me an advantage and allowed me to understand what goes into sports," Elana told the Falcons website recently. "It is more than going out onto the field and going out onto the ice and competing."

Elana crashed in training this week, an unusual accident on a part of the track that usually gives drivers few problems. Her confidence is unbowed though and despite being a little shaken she is more determined than ever, something she surely learned from her father.

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