Former sprinter Lauryn Williams working to master bobsled

Training Sunday, several days after the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation announced she had made the team for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Lauryn Williams was even harder at work.

“Worst push of the season, but no time to dwell,” Williams tweeted. “My focus is on being better because Jamie Greubel is counting on me.”

Greubel is the pilot and Williams the brakeman of a U.S. sled that has a shot at the podium in Sochi, when the games begin Feb. 6.

Williams, fresh from a gold medal in the 4x100-meter relay at the 2012 London Summer Olympics, is responsible for giving the sled a good shove at the top of the track and helping to get it through the twists and high-banked turns, at speeds that are regularly at least 90 miles per hour, straining against significant G-forces to keep the sled on the cleanest, quickest line.

“You never get used to being an Olympian; to be named to an Olympic team is always an honor because there is no guarantee that you will make it,” she said, Monday, as she traveled to Sochi. “I am very honored and excited to represent my family, friends and my country in the Olympics.”

Williams and Greubel scored gold Sept. 19 at the last World Cup event in Iglis, Austria, raising some expectations.

“I honestly haven’t thought much about it because this isn’t about me,” she said. “I am part of a 2-person team and in order for us to win, I have to be at my best and do my best; that’s all I’ve been thinking about since the team was named.

“I know that my performance affects someone else's performance and I don’t want to let my team down so that is my focus”

Although she lives outside of Pittsburgh, Williams spent some of her childhood in Metro Detroit.

A total of 13 athletes who list their hometowns in Michigan made the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team, the United States Olympic Committee announced Monday. The announcements make official what some of the governing bodies of the sports, like the bobsled and skeleton group, already determined, rarely making changes.

And there are many other althletes and others with significant connections to the state, including Williams; Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, who made the U.S. team; men’s figure skater Jeremy Abbott, who lives most of the year in Metro Detroit while training at the Detroit Skate Club, in Bloomfield Hills; U.S. luge coach Mark Grimmette, who was born in Muskegon and who lives in Ann Arbor; and Dan Bylsma, coach of the U.S. men’s hockey team and the Penguins of the NHL, who was born in Grand Haven.

That is not to mention 10 Red Wings, who will play for the Slovakia, Russia, Canada and Mike Babcock, Steve Yzerman and Ken Holland, a trio that coaches and manages the men’s hockey team for Canada.

Also, Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the ice dancing duo that won the gold medal four years ago in Vancouver and train at the Arctic Edge in Canton, and Patrick Chan, the three time men’s world champion, who trains at the Detroit Skating Club.

For Williams, the selection capped a transition from track and field. She won the gold medal at the 2012 London Summer Olympics.

“It’s hard to say that I feel fully like a bobsledder since I’ve only being doing it for six months, compared to track and field which I did for more than 20 years,” she said.

“While I’m more comfortable in a sled with each passing day, it is still scary and I’m still learning things from my teammates every day. However, it’s hard not to say that I’m fully a bobsledder because of the way my teammates have embraced me and welcomed me into the wolfpack!”

Possessed of an easy sense of humor, Williams has done a lot of joking about her transition from track star to the bobsled track. Another U.S. track star, Lolo Jones, who made the transition earlier, helped get her involved.

“Basically, I asked her what it was like. She said it was a lot of fun, there was good team camaraderie and she thought I would be good at it,” Williams said.
“She said it involved a lot of eating and weight-lifting,” she said, laughing. “Those are two things I like to do, so I thought it would be a lot of fun.”

As for her thoughts on executing the precise timing of the drive from the starting gate and getting in the sled in good order, Williams said, “I just tell myself, `Don’t get left behind.’ I just push the sled.

“I tell myself I’m racing her (Greubel). But once the driver is in, you don’t want to let the sled go down without you.”

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