KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia After plummeting 425 feet, through 17 curves and 1,500 icy meters in less than a minute, Jamie Greubel and Aja Evans slowed enough to see that they were going to win an Olympic medal.
That scoreboard revelation turned up the volume in the already noisy grandstands at Sanki Sliding Centers finish line. American fans blew horns, rang cowbells, chanted U-S-A and generally greeted the news as if it were an armistice.
Greubel and Evans exited their USA-2 bobsled, with much more difficulty than theyd entered it at the start of their fourth and final heat, and joined in the party. There were two sleds left, but the USA-2 crew now knew theyd be somewhere on the podium.
Greubel, raised in Newtown, Pa., who now lives in Lake Placid, and Evans, a Chicago-born track star, took the bronze medal Wednesday night in a wild finish to the womens Olympic bobsled competition.
Their American teammates in USA-1, driver Elena Meyers and brakeman Lauryn Williams, held the lead through three heats, but were surpassed in the fourth and deciding leg by Canadas Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse, who earned a second consecutive gold medal in the event.
We came into these last two heats today really confident, said a beaming Greubel, a 30-year-old Cornell graduate. We had two runs left and we were ready to attack them.
With Meyers and Williams silver medal and Greubel and Evans bronze, the U.S. continued its streak of landing on the podium in every Olympics since the sport was introduced for women in 2002 at Salt Lake City.
I couldnt be happier to be sharing the podium with (Meyers and Williams), said Greubel, USA-2s pilot. Theyre each so deserving of this.
It was also a second straight silver for Meyers in a second position. She was a brakeman in Vancouver before switching to the drivers seat.
Williams, meanwhile, a suburban Pittsburgh resident, became the third woman to have won medals in both the Winter and Summer Games. She got her gold as part of the U.S. 400-meter relay teams 2012 victory in London.
Had she and Meyers triumphed, she could have become the first woman and only the second athlete to win a gold in each.
I didnt come here to make history, Williams said. I came here to help Team USA win and I felt I did the best I could.
Still, she and Meyers were disappointed that the lead theyd held through three-quarters of the race slipped away in the fourth.
Any time youre that close and you can taste it and you dont come down with the result, it hurts a little bit, Meyers said. But at the end of the day, Im super elated for this medal.
At the end of the day, Kaillie (her chief rival on the World Cup circuit) beat me. I have to deal with that. I have to go back and train even harder. Weve been battling back and forth all year. Its been super fun to have that competition. She got the best of me now, but well see in four years.
After setting a course record in the first heat Tuesday, Meyers and Williams were in front halfway through the womens lone bobsled event.
Greubel was asked if now that she and Evans had earned this taste of Olympic glory, theyd be back at the 2018 Games in Rio, when she will be 34.
In the future, she said, in what sounded like a yes, were only going to be more competitive.
As Wednesdays racing began, on a cool and clear mountain night high above this charming ski village, they led the Canada-1 by 0.23 seconds. Greubel and Evans were .56 seconds back
But Canada-1 immediately trimmed the lead nearly in half 0.11 with the fastest of the 19 third runs.
There were three sleds left in Heat 4 when Greubel and Evans, 2,800 feet above sea level, pushed off at the start.
They were 0.76 seconds out of silver-medal position, then held by the Canadian pair. But their cushion of .64 on fourth-place Belgium-1 was a comforting statistic.
Ending their run, with a medal assured, they also were met at the finish by the USA-3 crew, driver Jazmine Fenlator and pusher Lolo Jones, who finished a disappointing 11th.
Fenlator, in particular, looked like she needed the bear hugs both Greubel and Evans gave her.
It was now a two-sled race for gold and both were at the top of hill waiting to end the competition and the drama.
With Humphries piloting flawlessly, the sleek white Canadian sled covered the icy course in 57.92. That was enough to erase USA-1s 0.11 lead and build a 0.10 edge.
Meyers had clipped a wall in Heat 3 and her final ride was less than perfect too, the BMW sleds nose wobbling as it came off Turn 7. That miscue was enough to guarantee that Humphries lead would survive.