Alumna Elana Meyers Taylor Returns to GW

National Girls and Women in Sports Day brought the three-time Olympic medalist back to campus as president of the Women’s Sports Foundation.

Elana Meyers Taylor high fives a young student athlete
Alumna Elana Meyers Taylor was back at GW as part of National Girls and Women in Sports Day. (Harrison Jones/GW Today)
February 06, 2019

By Eric Detweiller

Elana Meyers Taylor spent Tuesday evening at George Washington University's Lerner Health and Wellness Center doling out softball tips and high-fives in equal measure, a smile on her face every step of the way.
 
Back at GW representing the Women's Sports Foundation (WSF), the Colonials softball star-turned-Olympic bobsled medalist savored a lively scene that united her past and present.
 
With help from GW student-athletes and a host of decorated sports ambassadors, Ms. Meyers Taylor headlined a clinic for about 100 local girls as part of the organization's “Lead Her Forward” campaign in celebration of National Girls and Women in Sports Day.
 
"It's amazing to be able to share this with GW," said Ms. Meyers Taylor, B.S. '06 and M.T.A. '11. "To be able to have an event like this at the same university that gave me an opportunity to pursue my athletic dreams and also get a great education, it kind of comes full circle."
 
A pioneer who has challenged racial and gender barriers in the sport of bobsled, Ms. Meyers Taylor began a one-year term as WSF president last month after about a decade of supporting the non-profit group, which was founded in 1974 by tennis great Billie Jean King.
 
At the beginning of her bobsled career, a grant from WSF helped buy blades for her sled, paving the way for her first World Cup victory. Since then, she's stayed involved as a member of the athlete advisory panel and attended as many events as her crowded schedule allows.
 
"She's a person who knows what it takes to create a path as opposed to following one," said Phaidra Knight, a member of the World Rugby Hall of Fame who's also on the advisory panel. "So, there's no better person to be in that position than her."
 
Grassroots events targeting youth from underserved communities like the one Tuesday are central to the Women’s Sports Foundation mission.
 
Ms. Meyers Taylor pushed to bring the annual clinic to the Foggy Bottom campus for the first time and found Colonials eager to get involved.
 
"I didn't know what the university had going on or if there was going to be a conflict, but I figured the least I could do was ask the question," said Ms. Meyers Taylor, who received an honorary degree as part of the 2018 Commencement. "I've known [Director of Athletics and Recreation] Tanya Vogel for so long, and I know she's always been a huge proponent of women's participation in sports, so I'm really glad that it worked out."



 

The clinic had the girls divided into five groups.
 
Ms. Meyers Taylor led the softball station with an assist from a handful of current Colonials. The program's first-ever recruit in 2003 and later its first GW Athletics Hall of Famer, she demonstrated proper form for fielding a grounder and cheered on youngsters through the basics of catching and throwing.
 
"I just hope they have fun," senior pitcher Jayme Cone said. "The mechanics are really hard to learn at first, so we're not expecting perfection."
 
GW gymnastics brought along a full array of mats for teaching cartwheels and tumbling. The scenes brought back memories for senior Alex Zois of her early days in the gym.
 
"I get to show them what I think is super fun," Ms. Zois said. "And hopefully, they'll find a passion in it, too."
 
Members of the women's swimming and diving team helped Paralympic swimming champion Jessica Long moderate a station focused on health, wellness and body image.
 
Volunteers from women's tennis and volleyball teamed up on the tennis station, while women's basketball commanded a station challenging the girls in dribbling and shooting competitions.
 
"They were awesome to work with," said Kayla Mokwuah, a first-year student on the women's basketball team. "They're all really full of energy, full of excitement. By the end of it, a lot of the girls said 'Oh, I want to play basketball now.' That was really cool to hear."
 
Afterward, Ms. Meyers Taylor moved to the Charles E. Smith Center to recount to a room full of Colonials her transition to bobsledding and her push to become an Olympic medalist in the face of heavy adversity. She passed around her medals—a bronze from the 2010 Vancouver Games and silvers from the 2014 Sochi and 2018 PyeongChang games—to help her message of believe and achieve.
 
Just back from Switzerland, Ms. Meyers Taylor headed to Capitol Hill Wednesday to take part in events celebrating the 33nd annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day. Then, it's off to Lake Placid, N.Y., to continue the World Cup schedule with the World Championships in Canada about three weeks away.
 
She is proud to be leading the push to make sure the next generation has similar freedom to do what they love at the highest level.
 
"What's great is you never know where sports are going to take you," Ms. Meyers Taylor said. "It's all about taking that adventure, taking that next step and making the most of your opportunity."

 

 

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Elana Meyers Taylor bounced her shoulders as the George Washington University fight song kicked into gear inside Charles E. Smith Center on Monday evening. The former Colonial