Speed Racer

Lauren Gibbs got into bobsledding by chance, when a friend told her about a tryout at the Olympic Training Center and she decided to go: “I thought it’d be fun.” She recently relocated to Monterey County and is training for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Olympic bobsledder Lauren Gibbs, who won a silver medal in her Olympic debut at PyeongChang in 2018, already had a remarkable journey before moving to Monterey County in September, where she will train before competing to qualify for the Olympics next February in Beijing. Gibbs, 37, grew up in Los Angeles and later attended Brown University, where she was recruited for track and field, but where she instead became captain of the volleyball team. She majored in what she essentially describes as entrepreneurship, and bounced around some corporate jobs before landing in Denver, where, in 2014, she was managing a sales team of over 200 people.

A friend told her about a recruiting combine at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs that was happening on a weekend, and Gibbs, 30 at the time, decided to go because she’d never been to the center. Gibbs was asked to do three things: a sprint, a two-handed shotput toss and a broad jump, and based on her performance, was invited to a week-long rookie camp to learn bobsledding technique. Gibbs won the rookie competition at the end of camp, and her rise was stratospheric from there.

The Weekly caught up with Gibbs as she vies to make the 2022 Olympics, which she says will be her last.

Weekly: Why did you move to Monterey County?

Gibbs: My Mom went to Monterey High School, her dad was in the Navy and this was the last place they were stationed; I have aunts and uncles who live here, and I’ve been coming my entire life for vacation and it’s always felt like a second home. I came and trained here for the second half of the Olympic season last quad. I’m from Los Angeles but I’ve always loved the simplicity of a smaller town. The ability to get to know people, there’s less traffic, and you can’t beat the weather and the scenery and the food.

What makes Monterey County a good place to train, given there’s no ice or snow anywhere close?

The majority of bobsled training is dryland training, and you can only get so many runs in a bobsled. It’s a lot of sprinting and lifting. Monterey County has a plethora of tracks and places to run, and has some great gyms.

You train for countless hours, but the race is so short. What does the experience of the actual race feel like?

It’s a little bit of an indescribable feeling, it’s like nothing you’ve ever experienced before. It feels a little bit like flying, but also a little bit like bad turbulence in there. And it feels like the most extreme aggressive slip-and-slide you’ve ever been on. The ice is applied by hand, so if the ice is cut different, or if there are irregularities in the ice, it can throw you off. It’s like any competition, and you add in cold, and you add in a skin-tight suit, and then you add in a crap-ton of speed, and that’s bobsled.

So what made you fall in love with it?

Did you not just hear the description I gave you? (Laughs.) It was the opportunity to start something from scratch as an adult, after a time that I thought that opportunity had passed. It’s like, who starts a sport at 30 and wins an Olympic medal at 33? That’s not heard of. It went from being a weekend warrior Crossfit powerlifter and retired collegiate athlete to an Olympic medalist.

So, why is it time to move on?

I’m 37, and there’s only so much your body can take. And it’s time to go do other things and be excellent at other things. It’s fun to see what you’re capable of.

Growing up, I always thought success meant finding one company and one career and sticking with it my entire life. For some people, that works and that’s amazing, but that’s just not me. I like to challenge myself and find something that will either change the world or is super unique, and just throw myself into it. Now I’m trying to change the world, and the last eight years have been something super unique.

What are you doing to change the world?

Currently I’m working for this incredible organization called Parity. It’s an online marketplace and community for pro women athletes to be connected with brands or authentic and impactful social media campaigns. Our mission is to close the pay gap in professional sports sponsorship, which is a $66 billion market, and women only capture about 0.4 percent of that. Instead of women having to fight for the same seat at the table, we’re trying to grow the table and bring everybody with us.

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