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 Center's 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 they'd 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 they'd be somewhere on the podium.
Greubel, raised in Newtown, Pa., and Evans, a Chicago-born track star, took the bronze medal Wednesday night in a wild finish to the women's 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 Canada's 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 couldn't be happier to be sharing the podium with (Meyers and Williams)," said Greubel, USA-2's pilot. "They're 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 driver's 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 team's 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 didn't 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 they'd held through three-quarters of the race slipped away in the fourth.
"Any time you're that close and you can taste it and you don't come down with the result, it hurts a little bit," said Meyers. "But at the end of the day, I'm 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. We've been battling back and forth all year. It's been super fun to have that competition. She got the best of me now, but we'll see in four years."
After setting a course record in the first heat Tuesday, Meyers and Williams were in front halfway through the women's lone bobsled event.
As Wednesday's 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.
"She may be a little bit discouraged with her first Olympic appearance," said Jones, the former hurdler who failed to medal in consecutive Games, "but my first Olympics was a nightmare. She needs to hold her head up high."
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-1's 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 sled's nose wobbling as it came off Turn 7. That miscue was enough to guarantee that Humphries' lead would survive.
Greubel was asked if now that she and Evans had earned this taste of Olympic glory, they'd be back at the 2018 Games in Rio, when she will be 34.
"In the future," she said, in what sounded like a yes, "we're only going to be more competitive."
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