Team USA has 10 black athletes at the Winter Olympics. Here's what 2 of them had to say.

More than 2,500 athletes will compete in the Winter Games and only 45 of them are black.

Ten of those black athletes represent the United States.

Four of them are on the women's bobsled team.


Reaching the grandest stage in sports is an impressive accomplishment on its own, but the women of USA bobsled continue to beat the odds, representing the country and black women as they compete for a spot on the podium. I spoke with two of the five members of the team, to learn more about competing as black women in this thrilling winter sport.

Elana Meyers Taylor and Lauryn Williams of the United States in Sochi, Russia, in 2014. Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images.

Elana Meyers Taylor and Aja Evans hoped to make their Olympic debuts in the Summer Games, but life had other plans.

Meyers Taylor, 33, was a competitive softball player through college. When she didn't make the Olympic team in the sport, her parents suggested she look into bobsled.

"They saw Vonetta Flowers compete in 2002, and they were like, 'She's strong and athletic and she's a black woman like you. There's no reason why you can't be involved in bobsled as well,'" Meyers Taylor says.

It didn't matter that she didn't even own a winter coat at the time — Meyers Taylor saw the speed and excitement of a bobsled run and knew it was for her.

Elana Meyers Taylor, center, with her parents. Image via Procter & Gamble.

Aja Evans comes from an athletic family. Her father was a competitive college swimmer, and her brother spent eight seasons in the NFL. It was no surprise when Evans became a standout athlete at the University of Illinois, earning Big Ten Titles in shot put. When she didn't earn a spot on Team USA for the 2008 summer games, Evans turned her attention toward the ice.

"When I brought [my family] the idea of bobsled, they were a little taken back by it because it's not your typical sport," Evans said. "Once I explained to them my potential in the sport and what I could bring to the table, they were all for it and once we started producing results and really getting into the swing of things ... I received a lot of support from my family and people in my city and all around the country."

Aja Evans with her mom, Sequocoria Mallory. Image via Procter & Gamble.

Being a black woman at the center of Winter Olympics success is nothing new for these athletes, but that doesn't mean it's easy.

"It's always an honor to represent your country, and it's always an honor to represent black women, especially in a sport where we're not typically represented," Meyers Taylor says. "Yes, there's some inequalities and injustices that go on in our country ... so we're just trying to go out there and do what we can every single day and not only represent us, represent the U.S., but also represent our race and ethnicity and show the world that no matter what you look like, you can be successful in whatever you want to be."

Elana Meyers Taylor speaks during the Team USA Media Summit. Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images.

Like Meyers Taylor, Evans takes pride in her unique space on Team USA.

Evans is arriving in Pyeongchang ready to return to the podium. Her confidence is buoyed by the people rallying behind her, at home and abroad.

"I'm very confident in myself, whether it be because of who I am as a black woman or the things I've accomplished as an athlete for Team USA," she says. "I do feel like when we step into rooms, we draw attention, whether it be good or bad. The main thing is that we own it, and we wear it well. It's not in a cocky way. It's not in a negative way or a timid way. We're proud to represent who we are."

Aja Evans at the United States Women's Bobsleigh Team press conference. Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images.

Regardless of their differences, what unites Team USA is their drive to win.

After years of hard work and dedication, both women have been successful in bobsledding's biggest competitions.

Pyeongchang will be Meyers Taylor's third Olympics. She pushed her way to a bronze medal in the 2010 Games in Vancouver, then switched to the pilot position, where she earned a silver medal in Sochi in 2014. Evans pushed Jamie Greubel Poser to a bronze medal in Sochi and is back in the brakeman position this year.

Canadian gold medalists and silver and bronze medalists from Team USA. Left to right: Elana Meyers Taylor, Kaillie Humphries, Lauryn Williams, Heather Moyse, Aja Evans, and Jamie Greubel. Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images.

What's it like inside the sled? Evans and Meyers Taylor shared what you won't see on TV.

It's an adrenaline rush like no other as the athletes speed down the 1,500-meter course with 16 curves, each with varying degrees of difficulty. The sleighs are typically made of metal and fiberglass and can reach speeds of up to 84 miles per hour.

"I think the most intense moment for me at the start is right when I'm about to run. Just standing on that line and feeling that heart in my chest. You're kind of zoning out all the noise and just focused on putting everything you can into the ice," Evans says. "Once [my drivers] put their hand up and signal that they're ready to go, it's just one speed from there."

Aja Evans during the women's bobsled event at the 2014 Winter Olympics. Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images.

For the most part, the trip down the icy track is a blur, especially for the brakeman.

"The brakeman can't see anything. They're in the back; their head tucked between their knees," Meyers Taylor says. As for the pilots, "We're actually driving the sled; we're not just leaning."

That means the pilots have to negotiate those twists, turns, and bends, their slopes ranging from 8-15%, with true precision. While they can't see the clock on the way down, there are ways to know if they've hit their mark.

"You can feel it in your hands. You can feel what the sled is doing. You can feel the ice beneath you. You know whether or not you're hitting the line," Meyers Taylor says. "You don't know how your time will compare to other pilots, but you know whether or not you're on. When you're on, it's the greatest feeling in the world."

Elana Meyers Taylor and Lauren Gibbs compete at the Women's Bobsleigh World Cup. Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images for IBSF.

Meyers Taylor, Evans, and the rest of Team USA take to the ice and bobsled coverage begins Sunday, Feb. 18.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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