© 2024 Michigan State University Board of Trustees
Public Media from Michigan State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Williams Is Second American To Win Winter And Summer Olympic Medals

U.S. silver medalists Elana Meyers, left, and Lauryn Williams pose after their final run in the women's bobsled Wednesday. Williams becomes only the second American in history to win medals in both the Summer and Winter Olympics.
Alex Livesey
Getty Images
U.S. silver medalists Elana Meyers, left, and Lauryn Williams pose after their final run in the women's bobsled Wednesday. Williams becomes only the second American in history to win medals in both the Summer and Winter Olympics.

The top American women's bobsled teams took silver and bronze in Sochi Wednesday, but the story of the day was Lauryn Williams, who became just the second American in history to win medals at both Summer and Winter Olympics. She's the fifth person to have accomplished the feat.

Williams won a silver medal to match the silver she won in the 100 meters 10 years ago at the Athens Games. She also owns an Olympic gold medal, from being part of the U.S. women's 4x100 meter relay team in London two summers ago.

"Williams joins an exclusive club of only four other athletes to win medals in both the Winter and Summer Games," Team USA says. She is also "the first American woman to accomplish the feat," joining Eddie Eagan as the only Americans to do so.

Eagan won his first medal in boxing, at the 1920 Games. His second came 12 years later in the bobsled (see archive footage here). Both of Eagan's medals were gold — a mark Williams came within a tenth of a second of matching.

Update: Another U.S. Medal Mark To Note

A reader has helpfully pointed out that before Lauryn Williams accomplished her feat, another American woman had already won medals in summer and winter competitions – Alana Nichols, who earned gold medals in the Paralympic Games, in the disciplines of alpine skiing and wheelchair basketball.

Nichols represented the U.S. at the most recent Paralympics in Sochi. In a recent interview with All Things Considered, she said, "it's really incredible and almost every morning, I give thanks just to be a part of this movement."

Our original post continues:

It has been a fast rise for Williams, who one year ago had never tried bobsled racing. She was only elevated to the elite U.S. women's team with Elana Meyers 11 days ago, just as the games in Sochi began.

With Williams providing the U.S. team with strong and fast starts and handling the brakes while Meyers guided the sled down the track, the USA-1 team held a 0.23-second lead after the competition's first runs yesterday.

But the Canadian team of Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse executed near-perfect runs Wednesday, while the U.S. pair hit some snags. Eventually, Williams and Meyers were nipped for the gold medal by just 0.10 seconds.

"I fought every single second down the track and Lauryn really dug it out at the start," Meyers said after Wednesday's finish. "We gave everything we had and left it all out there. That's really what it's about, it's about going out there and giving everything you can to fight for your country. We couldn't be happier with that, and hopefully America will forgive me for letting gold slip away."

As she explained on her blog last year, Williams was lured into the world of bobsledding by her teammate Lolo Jones, another track athlete who came to Sochi as part of the bobsled team. Both of them competed in the 2012 London Games.

Here's how Williams described the transition from track to ice:

"As an athlete there is an exhilarating feeling that comes with pushing yourself to the max and I forgot how to channel that in track but found it instantly not knowing any limits in Bobsled because it is all new to me. There is this weird balance between the competitive and team aspect that keeps you on your toes but doesn't put you on guard with your teammates. Running down hill on ice pushing a 400lb sled may sound crazy to some but I am having SO MUCH FUN!!"

Williams wasn't the only American to make history in Sochi Wednesday. As Mark reported earlier for The Two-Way, skier Ted Ligety won gold in the giant slalom, becoming "only the second American to ever earn two Olympic gold medals in Alpine skiing."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
Journalism at this station is made possible by donors who value local reporting. Donate today to keep stories like this one coming. It is thanks to your generosity that we can keep this content free and accessible for everyone. Thanks!