I could not tell.
Speaking with Elana Meyers after her record-setting start to the 2014 women’s bobsled competition, I watched her display the same calmness and composure she has shown in the past.
She spoke of her performance as if it were a training run, not Day One of the Winter Olympics. She talked of how, while she was certainly excited to sit atop the leaderboard, she needed to focus on the overall picture and work on fixing the mistakes from her first two heats.
She seemed very level-headed.
And I could not tell if she was faking it.
Meyers had to have been doing mental backflips, right? Team USA’s top bobsled driver had to have been thrilled with coming out of the gate and setting a track record on her first run. She had to have been relieved, after crashing her sled twice in last week’s training runs, to have taken two clean, beautiful slides down the Sochi track.
More than that, she had to have been bubbling with excitement. After winning a bronze medal as a brakeman in 2010, Meyers learned how to drive the bobsled in half the time usually required. She entered this season as America’s best and remained so entering the Olympics.
After one night, she stood temporarily as the world’s top driver, two heats away from potentially realizing her gold medal dreams.
She had to have been absolutely amped, right?
The conditions outside could not have been worse. Rain, clouds, and fog blanketed the Krasnaya Polyana mountains Tuesday. Much as it had in previous days, weather became a factor in various Winter Olympic events.
But it did not stop women’s bobsled. And it could not touch Meyers.
Racing on a mostly covered track, Meyers and partner Lauryn Williams drove to a 0.23-second lead after the first day of competition. They followed their track record on Run #1 with an unofficial push record on Run #2. The “push” is the start, when both sliders stomp their pistons down their ice and give their sled as much momentum as possible.
Meyers could not have asked for much better. But, in our interview, she did.
“There were some mistakes in the track and mistakes in the driving,” Meyers told me. “I’m excited to come back out tomorrow and attack it”
And how would she sleep tonight?
“I’m gonna sleep. That’s for sure. It’s gonna be a challenge to get good rest, but we need our sleep. We need to be ready to go tomorrow.”
No “I’m so excited right now?” No “this is the moment I have been waiting for”? Nothing?
I have been covering Meyers for nearly five years now, from her run to a bronze medal in Vancouver to this current quest for Olympic gold. I have interviewed her on the track and off the track, about both sports and life. I do not claim to be an expert on her mindset or personality simply because of a few scattered interactions, but I will say this: I have always found her to be genuine, humble, and most of all appreciative.
Competing in a sport where she typically toils in anonymity, Meyers has rarely turned down a request for an interview. She has always used her spotlight opportunities to give credit to others, from her family to her teammates. She did so again last night, rightly crediting Williams – a former track star who has only been sledding for six months — for two tremendous Olympic pushes.
If she wins gold Wednesday night, perhaps she will depart from tradition and give herself some credit.
But on this night, I was prepared to believe she was still the same, level-headed, unflappable individual I had come to know.
Until I watched Meyers walk over to her dad.
Meyers arrived from the interview area at a nearby platform where her father Eddie and fiancé Nic were waiting with giant smiles.
And what did she say?
“I was so nervous this afternoon, I almost couldn’t eat!”
I knew it.
Meyers was anxious, eager, and not 100 percent composed about this momentous event. She undoubtedly remains so now, hours away from her shot at gold. She probably did not get as much sleep Tuesday night as she imagined.
But she is on top. For now. And she does not need to sleep to see her dreams right in front of her.
FOR MORE ON MY OLYMPICS JOURNEY: A different view of USA-Russia
FOR MORE ON MY OLYMPICS JOURNEY: 10 observations after 2 weeks
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Matt Pearl is the author of the Telling the Story blog and podcast. Feel free to comment below or e-mail Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org.