After a series of celebratory appearances following her Olympic bronze medal in the two-man bobsled, it was back to work for Sylvia Hoffman. At the Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, she was the brakeman to Elana Meyers Taylor’s pilot/driver, but in early March she began her transition to the pilot’s seat at a training camp.
Hoffman played college basketball and then turned to weightlifting. In 2018, she appeared on season two of “The Next Olympic Hopeful” where she garnered the attention of USA Bobsled coaches, who tested her pushing capabilities. From there, she was invited to a rookie camp in Lake Placid, which was the start of her bobsled career. After winning the national push championship she was invited to team trials where she set a new push standard. That put her on the national and World Cup teams her first season.
“I’ve been fortunate to be the number one brakeman for the last three and a half years,” said Hoffman. “For me, it was a matter of continuing my progression and staying number one and also staying healthy.”
Incredibly, Hoffman and Meyers Taylor had only raced together once this season before the Olympics. “When they announced the Olympic team, we started doing training camps,” said Hoffman, who trained with Meyers Taylor in Switzerland before heading to China. “Once they said we were racing together, we handled business from there.”
Two women of color together on the bobsled means a lot to Hoffman. “Both of us are very experienced athletes, but the difference is she’s a very experienced Olympian,” said Hoffman. “It was a matter of…doing what I needed to do to make sure I’m prepared and…also trusting her judgment. … We took care of business.”
They set the start record en route to their bronze medal, which is all the more incredible because Meyers Taylor spent the start of the Games in quarantine after a positive COVID test. Hoffman said they both remained calm and collected through the challenges.
“It’s a blessing,” said Hoffman. “Once we crossed the finish line of doing all four heats and not letting up—all gas, no brakes—we got it done.”
For Hoffman, this is just the beginning. Her sights are set on becoming the pilot as well as inspiring further diversity. “More people of color entering and being successful in winter sports is very important,” said Hoffman, who will eventually be recruiting brakemen. “Every sport is for anyone that wants to do it.”