Lauren Gibbs. World Champion, Olympic Medalist And Team USA Powerhouse
Chatting with Lauren is always a pleasure. In this interview we have highlights about her journey, her diet and her burgeoning career as a professional public speaker. She's a bobsleigh icon, let's see what she had to say...
World Champions, Lauren with pilot Kaille Humphries at the Altenberg 2020 World Championships
TBM: Hi Lauren thanks for talking to us! Let's dive in, how did you get yourself into bobsleigh?
LG: Well, born and raised in California bobsleigh is not exactly what you’d call an LA sport! Growing up I did a number of sports and eventually landed on volleyball at college. I studied business at University and then after graduation I worked in sales and got my executive MBA. I got that at Pepperdine University which was pretty much for the ocean views. Everyone should go there, it’s great. After this I moved to Denver, Colorado for work.
Whilst in Denver I was working out in a Crossfit gym and a good friend of mine Jill Potter, (2016 USA Rugby Olympian) said I should try out bobsled. At this stage I was 30 years old and - like everybody else - all I knew about bobsled was from the movie ‘Cool Runnings’!
It was just after the 2014 Sochi Games and Team USA had won a lot of medals. The Olympic Training Centre nearest me was only an hour away and it was hosting a tryout. For a bit of extra money you could tour the facility and get food. Anyone who knows me knows I’ll do just about anything for a good meal. So I thought, ‘what the heck, I’ll go down there, maybe meet an Olympian and it’ll just be a funny story I tell at work next week.’
At the time I was in a big corporate company, managing 200 people in 5 different states and was an area manager transitioning into a regional sales director at another company. For me, the notion of a sporting career was over at 30.
But it turned out it wasn’t and it kind of snowballed from there. I went from the tryout to push champs, then to team trials, then the next thing I knew I was at the top of a bob track terrified out of mind ahead of my first bob run.
Straight after that run though, I knew I had to quit my job to go see about an Olympic dream.
Push it real good
TBM: Awesome stuff, what was your first track?
LG: My first track was Lake Placid which as you know is the real deal. I know it’s a bit of a home track for the GB guys and girls. Anyone who has slid Placid in the fall knows how treacherous it can be, lots of square corners and big pressures - it’s pretty bumpy.
My first run down was with Elana Meyers-Taylor, who is incredible and at that time was a 2-time Olympic medallist (now 3-time). But even with her driving, after someone tells you you’re about to feel like you’ve been kicked off a cliff in a trashcan, you tend to get a little nervous!
Imparting wisdom to the next generation
TBM: Tell us about your Olympic experience, you won a medal which is huge, but talk to us about the journey...
LG: It’s funny, everyone wants to talk about what it was like to get that medal around your neck, but to be honest, by that time you’re pretty numb and just thinking, ‘how the hell did I get here?!’
But I love that you asked how it felt to get there, because that is the true story. I’m not one of those athletes who likes watching sports, I like watching sports documentaries because I like to see how people got to where they are, not just watch them doing it.
John Daly (US Skeleton and multiple Olympian) has this video interview quote which I love that says, ‘you never forget the day they told you you’re going to be an Olympian.’ Making the team is so much harder than actually competing at the Games.
We had our setbacks too. Elana rolled up to the Games with a partial tear in her achilles. We kept it quiet at the time. But yeah, walking away with any sort of accolade was a huge blessing and I’m so grateful for it. Some Olympians start their journeys from childhood but I only had 3 and a half years to figure this thing out. You know, what it feels like to give everything you have morning, noon and night, to be the first thing you think of when you wake up and the last thing in your head before you fall asleep.
I used to have nightmares that the coaches would tell me that I need to push a start record, then look at the start and see it’s covered in snow, (only other brakemen will understand that!).
But ultimately, to be told that I get to push USA1 at the Olympic Games has been the greatest achievement of my life so far.
Putting on the brakes
TBM: That's great Lauren and a really good insight to your values. Let's switch it up a bit because there are lots of brakewomen currently figuring out how to get the right weight on, talk to us about your diet...
LG: I actually had to lose weight to bobsled! I came in at 200 pounds, I was a big woman and good chunk of that was muscle.
I was powerlifting at the time and doing my MBA so eating everything in sight and weightlifting which is basically the perfect recipe for gaining weight. I put on weight pretty easy though, I’m always trying to lose it. I’m about 83kg and need to be 77kg really.
So for me, my diet was pretty dialled in for ages. I ate egg whites and plain oatmeal for breakfast. I used to look at my macros and had a coach who would help with programming me for my protein, carbs, fats etc.
If you plan it, and moderate it with plenty of activity, you can pretty much eat what you want and achieve the goal you want.
TBM: You've also made a pretty good career for yourself in public speaking, tell us how you got into that...
LG: So I got lucky in the sense that I started in sales at the age of 18, right out of high school and sold a knife product! I got a lot of practice slinging that product around and I learnt a lot about sales and so have been public speaking for a long time. I did conferences, ran my own team and just worked my way through bigger and more corporate style positions.
After the 2018 Olympics I was approached by the CEO and founder of Ted X Pasadena. With Ted Talks, every location has their own kind of setup. She said that her roster was full but she loved my story and would love me to do a talk.
It was very interesting and totally different to what I’m used to. I like to be less regimented and a little looser but they have a very specific formula to follow. But it was a great experience and now I have this professionally produced piece of public speaking I can show. I would normally (outside of global lockdowns), be travelling around the USA speaking to big companies. I’d love to go international too, I’ve never been to London so that would be cool!
But yeah, I now speak with companies all over the country about things like motivation, overcoming adversity, taking risks later in life and have found that my story is intriguing for people. I like to talk about how my experiences can manifest positively in their lives and how they can have their own Olympic moments. Besides all that I’m creating a website, writing a book and making some course content too.
TBM: Life is never dull for you then! Ok last question before you get your dumb 'would you rather', tell us about your plans for Beijng 2022...
LG: The plan for me is to go to Beijing and win gold! When I won silver I could’ve walked away 100% satisfied. I’d put in the performance of a lifetime, I felt like a superhero and it went totally how I planned it. It was such a dream experience that there is a little fear factor now with, ‘what if it’s terrible the second time around!’
But you have to get past that and take that risk. No matter what happens I’m very content and proud of the work and accomplishments that I and my team have had while I’ve been a part of Team USA Bobsled.
Right now I’m currently trying to give back to the programme a little and make sure it is a safe and productive space to bring new athletes into. We want people to come and learn about the sport and grow in the best way they can as a person and as an athlete. Bobsled beats people up a bit, there’s no money in it and a lot of expectation. Everyone has dreams and don’t necessarily get to live them out but we can certainly learn a lot from our time screwing around in the back of a bobsled.
But yes, my plan is to win gold but I have to take it one step at a time. I’m 36 years old now and will take each season as it comes. Becoming a World Champion with Kaillie was certainly a highlight this year!
Looking good on top of the podium with pilot Kaillie Humphries
TBM: Lauren, thank you so much for your time and giving your illustrious name to the platform. Ok, the moment you and everyone else have been waiting for, would you rather:
Switch allegiance to Team Canada or Team GB?
LG: Haha! GB.
TBM: Excellent answer.
LG: I love a good accent! Don’t get me wrong I love the Canadian team but GB has always had my back. You guys have such a sunny disposition and you work so hard and always find a way to overcome. You guys inspire me, so yeah I 100% choose GB.
TBM: Lovely jubbly.
Follow Lauren's onward journey here
Check out her awesome Ted Talk here (don't miss this one)
Anyone interested in bobsleigh from the USA? Click here