Once every two years, the greatest athletes from around the world represent their countries with pride and compete to etch their names in the history books. This massive event is truly a spectacle, and there may be no one better equipped to break down what it takes and what the stage feels like more than AAU alum Lauryn Williams.
As one of only five athletes, and the first woman, to take home hardware in both winter (bobsledding) and summer (sprinting) events, Williams can provide unparalleled advice and knowledge on the topic.
Our friends at Eastbay sat down with the legendary competitor to hear all about her experiences on the global stage.
PART 1: TRAINING FOR THE STAGE
Q: You can give really unique insight on this since you have competed and medaled in both summer and winter events. What were the biggest differences between the two?
A: “The biggest difference between the two is the atmosphere and size. When I was on the winter team, we had around 230 total athletes representing the US, whereas just our track and field team had over 180 people one summer. So that one sport is pretty much the size of all the sports for the winter. But that smaller size helps you get to know the people better. It’s a lot more intimate of a community and more of a family environment in the winter.”
Q: How did that transition from sprinting to bobsledding come about?
A: “My track and field career was getting ready to be over and I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do next in my life after sports. So I started playing with some different options and I ran into a friend at an airport. I had just read an article about her trying bobsled and asked her ‘hey, I heard you did bobsled? How did you like it?’ She had nothing but praises to say about bobsled, and what a great opportunity it was. She said ‘Lauryn, you’re fast and powerful, those are two tools you’ll need. So if I were you, I’d give it a try.’ So I did, and six months later, I was at the Games!”
Q: What were some of the biggest challenges you had when you made the switch?
A: “Definitely the learning curve. Track and field is a very individual sport while bobsled is much more team-oriented. It was one of my biggest life lessons — it taught me how to compete against someone but also have their best interests at heart. You want the overall team to win. It was a very steep learning curve, and I depended on the other girls to help me so that I could be good enough to represent the USA.”
Q: As someone who has truly excelled at multiple sports, what advice would you give to young athletes who want to go down that path?
A: “It’s a great way to diversify yourself. I work in financial planning now and that’s a common term that we use, but it applies to multiple parts of your life. You want to be multifaceted so that you can give yourself different skills and strengths. The more things you expose yourself to, the better opportunities you’ll have long term. It’ll also make you more well-rounded as a person. Plus, what you learn in one sport could be useful in another.”
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