A mile of concrete, entombed in ice, lies at Aja Evans’ feet.
Her fingers grip smooth, circular handles on the tail of a 400-pound sled, sheathed in carbon fiber. A morning wind bites near the summit of Mount Van Hoevenberg, nine miles south of Lake Placid, N.Y., but Evans and her driver, Elana Meyers, can’t feel it. They’re swaddled in adrenaline, thick helmets and suits engineered to keep the ice from gnawing at their skin should Meyers lose focus for even a breath.
They stand side by side, looking down the slope that will lead them to a hard right and the unforgiving tunnel. Evans stands behind the black sled, squeezing those handles, sinking low. To her left, Meyers crouches and offers two firm slaps on Evans’ back as they dig their metal-spiked shoes into a frostbitten block of wood.
Meyers places her right hand on the sled’s left edge, swings her left arm in front of her and lets her fingers hang in the cold air. They linger a few feet behind the bar protruding from the vessel’s side. For that second, the coaches and teammates around the duo are silent and still.
Now all they have to do is … PUSH.