This story appears in FCA Magazine’s January/February 2018 issue. Subscribe today!
The day featured typical New York fall weather: overcast and brisk. The color of the trees surrounding the Adirondack Mountains, from mustard yellow to bright red to faded brown, signified the season. Lake Placid was calm.
Nic Taylor entered the water just before his fiancé, Elana Meyers, the woman he was convinced God had visualized to him in his dreams years earlier. He had left his previous job in California to pursue two new goals: a childhood dream and a lifelong relationship with Elana.
The two were joined by Ryan Schneider, who had become the head pastor at Saranac Lake Baptist Church a month earlier. He and Elana had built their friendship the previous two years through a weekly Bible study. He was honored when she asked him to baptize her in the lake.
Schneider, with a few words, explained the power, symbolism and purpose of baptism — the visible profession to the Christian church that you will follow Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.
“Nic got baptized first,” Schneider said. “Then he helped me baptize Elana. It was really a powerful statement.”
Schneider held Elana’s left hand, and Nic held her right hand. When she rose out of the water, the expression on Elana’s face was a mixture of surprise (from the water’s temperature) and joy (from her testimony).
Elana Meyers Taylor (front) piloted Team USA to a silver medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Watching the trio that day, Oct. 8, 2013, were members of the U.S. Bobsled Team, athletes who had watched Elana and Nic grow closer to one another the previous two years. The couple wanted to express their faith through joint baptisms as part of their courtship before marriage. But it was just as important to them to invite as many teammates as they could — some who were Christians and others who were not.
“Unique,” Schneider said of the moment.
He uses that word, “unique,” a lot when describing the couple. And for good reason. As husband and wife, both are world-class athletes hoping to reach the 2018 Olympics.
Elana, 33, is a two-time Olympian in two-man women’s bobsleigh. Winning the bronze medal as a brakeman in 2010 and the silver medal as the pilot in 2014, she became the first American — male or female — to medal in both positions. Nic, a 30-year-old push athlete, is a member of Team USA’s four-man bobsled team. He has won the America’s Cup event twice and won a bronze medal during the 2012-13 World Cup season.
Both are African-Americans in a sport that doesn’t have many minorities.
Above all, both are Christians.
“We know God is using our time here for a purpose,” Elana said of training and competing alongside her husband. “It’s exciting to be able to go through this and think about what stories we’ll share with our (future) kids later, and what will come of all of this.”
The couple knows God has blessed them during their relationship because only He could have brought them together.
• • •
In high school, Elana Meyers Taylor excelled at just about everything.
She graduated from Lithia Springs (Georgia) High School with a 4.0 GPA. She was sports editor for the school newspaper. The daughter of Edward Meyers, a former running back for the Atlanta Falcons, Elana was a standout in basketball, softball, soccer, and track and field.
In 2002, as an all-county shortstop from Douglasville, Georgia, Elana became the first softball recruit to sign with George Washington University. She finished her collegiate career in 2006 as the Atlantic-10 Conference’s Student-Athlete of the Year.
When it came to her faith, beyond getting baptized as a child, Elana mostly attended church on “significant dates” on the calendar: Easter Sunday, Christmas Day, and the Sunday nearest her Oct. 10 birthday. A struggle with depression and an eating disorder early in college brought her to a closer relationship with God.
“Christ spoke to me and told me I didn’t have to have control of everything, and He would take control of me,” she said. “Ever since then, I’ve walked this journey with Him.”
Over time, Elana overcame her struggles. She attended FCA events. She also participated in a Bible study through Athletes in Action that helped transform her life.
After college, and after failing to make the elite U.S. Softball Team, Elana began her bobsled career in 2007, making the national team in her rookie season and beginning her transformation into the best American woman in the sport. Through the demands of traveling, training and competition, she remained involved with the Monday night Bible study, now led by Schneider at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid.
In 2011, Elana stopped dating in order to spend more time with God through the Bible. She also began interning with the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation.
Elana Meyers Taylor and Lauryn Williams celebrate winning the silver medal in 2014.
• • •
Nic Taylor’s path to Christianity, and bobsledding, was unusual.
Baptized as a baby, Nic went to church a few times during his childhood. However, it took three separate car accidents during a three-month stretch in the summer of 2005 for him to finally surrender his life to Jesus. Only 18 years old at the time, Nic survived each of the three accidents relatively unscathed — even though he had to climb out of windows or get cut free by firefighters to escape the smashed vehicles.
“It shouldn’t have taken three, but it took three for me to realize I’m not in control of my life,” Nic said of experiencing God’s grace. “There’s nothing I could have done to have walked away from three completely totaled cars. It was all God’s doing. He had been there with me the entire time.”
Growing up in Hayward, California, Nic played as many sports as he could, including taekwondo, football and wrestling. His childhood goal at Mount Eden High, though, was to become an Olympic sprinter.
Nic was an accomplished sprinter, too. He was a 2006 junior national qualifier and the standout captain who led Cal State Northridge to consecutive Big West Conference championships. His dream, however, ended toward the end of his senior year in college. In 2010, he tore his right hamstring while trying to qualify for the Olympic trials.
At 22, Nic became a sprints and decathlon coach for UCLA. He enjoyed coaching, but he didn’t stay in Los Angeles long. He had lots of theories on how to develop strength and speed at the same time, but there was a problem. He didn’t feel it was fair to test out any of those theories on college athletes who were trying to reach their own goals. The only proper participant would have to be himself — or someone with total trust in him.
Nic’s career shifted when he learned what happened at the 2010 Winter Olympics. Nick Cunningham, one of Nic’s former track teammates, competed for the U.S. in the four-man bobsled. After some vigorous research, Nic decided bobsled would be the ideal outlet for him to test his training concepts while also pursuing his Olympic dreams.
“It was perfect,” he said.
During that same time, Nic had a dream. He believes God showed him he would soon meet a woman, perhaps his wife. But the dream also revealed he wouldn’t be ready for such a commitment, perhaps wasting one of God’s biggest blessings in his life.
“I had to really do a lot of self-reflection,” he said. “That’s when I really started to get into the Bible. I stopped dating and just started becoming the person I always dreamt I’d be.”
Nic called the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation in the fall of 2011. He had lost the requisite paperwork to begin his new career. He needed help.
Elana answered his call.
A conversation that should have lasted a few minutes went on for hours. Nic didn’t want to get off the phone with Elana. He kept asking questions, essentially interviewing his future wife, not even knowing she was an athlete or had won an Olympic bronze medal the year before. A few weeks later, Nic moved to New York to begin training, and the two began dating.
“I haven’t been the same since,” he said.
• • •
When Schneider began leading the weekly Bible study, four or five athletes from the Olympic Training Center attended the hour-long sessions. Elana joined when her scheduled allowed. Then she invited more of her teammates such as Lolo Jones, Aja Jones, Kehri Jones and Brittany Reinbolt to help boost the attendance to almost 20.
Then Nic began attending.
“Their relationship made each of them stronger,” Schneider said. “To see Nic make the national team this year is just evidence of that. They’re both continuing to be some of the top athletes in their sport. Just watching them become one has been a treat.”
At first, Nic needed to learn as much as he could about the sport. He and Elana spent hours together each day — more than the average couple — learning about different techniques and each other’s life experiences.
Nic Taylor, while pursuing his bobsled career, has been his wife's trainer since the couple's wedding in 2014.
By 2013, in his second season, Nic had solidified himself as an improving push athlete who could compete at the international level.
“Being able to do it with your best friend — who happens to be your wife — is awesome,” Nic said. “It makes the road a lot easier. Things aren’t nearly as hard as they could be if I was on this path alone.”
Elana kept improving, too. She established herself as the best American pilot in 2013. She also enjoyed the ability to see the sport from a new perspective by teaching Nic, who is known for his infectious smile and energy, whether in training or at competitions.
As their relationship progressed, the couple continued to better understand their love for each other through their faith, even when their competitions forced them to be in different countries for weeks.
“It’s really shaped our relationship and really taught us a lot about each other,” Elana said. “We’ve seen each other at our lowest, but we’ve also seen each other at our highest.”
On Jan. 26, 2013, Nic watched Elana finish in second place at the World Championships in St. Mortiz, Switzerland. In his possession were red roses and an engagement ring. After the event, Nic convinced Ivo Ferriani, president of the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation, to let him do his grand gesture in front of the cameras.
Once the medals were given, Ferriani gave Nic the microphone. With frozen roses and the ring, he went down on one knee and proposed to Elana, who was on the podium with her silver medal.
“That was the greatest gift,” she said, “that I could have ever received.”
Teammates Lolo Jones, Aja Jones and Jazmine Fenlator celebrate with Elana Meyers Taylor.
• • •
Since their wedding on April 24, 2014, Nic has been more than just his wife’s husband; he’s also been her trainer.
In preparing for the Olympics, the couple returned to the Olympic Training Center in October. During training sessions, the couple works out next to each other. They enjoy taking photos and videos of the other, whether it’s the start of pushing the 400-pound sled down the track, lifting weights, or pushing a car to maintain strength.
Finding the correct balance between encouraging, correcting and supporting as a trainer and husband has been tricky at times for Nic. He gave one example of how Elana lifted more weight than usual during one workout.
“The coach in me said, ‘Let’s bring this down,’” he said. “But she looked like she was having a lot of fun. She was doing a great job at it, so I had to approach the situation from love. If she thinks this is a great idea, I should trust her.
“She crushed it.”
"That's the perfect picture of a husband loving his wife like Christ loved the church." — Ryan Schneider on Nic Taylor.Schneider has watched the couple both in training and in competition. He has always been fascinated with their intensity and desire to improve. With Elana, Schneider said there’s no lack of focus with her because she’s the most disciplined athlete on the national team, even weighing the precise amount of protein necessary to ensure she’s doesn’t gain or lose too much weight.
Nic’s willingness to sacrifice some of his time in training to better his wife’s chances of winning is what impresses Schneider the most.
“That’s the perfect picture of a husband loving his wife like Christ loved the church,” Schneider said. “It’s just a picture of the gospel. If God is giving her the success, you help her first, and then you think about yourself.”
Whenever asked, Elana is quick to explain how her husband’s presence has helped her become a better pilot. In 2015, she won the gold medal at the World Championships, becoming the first American woman to accomplish such a feat. She repeated as champion last year. The couple also made history together in 2015 when Elana became the first American woman to pilot a four-man bobsled — with her husband as her brakeman — in an international men’s competition.
As the more accomplished athlete, Elana said her career is not more important than her husband’s, even if Nic puts more of his emphasis on her. She wants Nic to experience the thrill of competing in a high-pressure situation on the sport’s biggest stage, where an athlete’s work for four years is put on display for the entire country.
“My role is to support my husband and support his dreams,” she said. “I trust him, that he’s taking care of our family and leading us. I’ve learned what it truly means to love somebody through our relationship.”
They train and support one another in much the same manner that they pray, were baptized, and lean on God’s plan: together.
“They’re a picture of what the nation should be reflecting,” Schneider said. “I’m overjoyed that they might have a chance of representing us, and I wouldn’t say that about just anybody.”
Photos courtesy of John David Mercer-USA Today Sports, Molly Choma and USA Bobsled.