This past Thursday, Bryant welcomed Olympic bobsledder Lauren Gibbs to campus. After taking home a silver medal in the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang as the brakeman for Olympic veteran Elana Meyers Taylor, Gibbs is taking some much-needed down time and decided to sit down with some students in the Bryant community to share her experiences and life lessons. Lauren spoke to us about her spontaneous entry into bobsledding, her educational experience obtaining her undergraduate degree from Brown University, her lessons learned from working in corporate America, and even got to show off her Olympic silver medal.
Not only did those in the Bryant community get to hear Lauren share her story, but The Archway was fortunate enough to have a private interview with the Olympian thanks to the help of Associate Director of the Center for Student Leadership and Involvement, William Reddy. Considering our responsibilities to provide the most complete coverage for Bryant students, we were excited to gain a first-hand look at Lauren’s experiences, and a glimpse at her personal life. News Editor Christopher Groneng, and Co-Editor-in-Chief Hayley Wilcox sat down with Lauren, and here is the conversation we had with her.
HW: So, obviously it’s really important that you come and speak to colleges and universities, so what makes you passionate about wanting to come to schools like Bryant and speak to college students?
LG: I just remember when I graduated I had all these ideas of what I was supposed to do but I had no ideas of what I actually wanted to do. I was a business major and my dad wanted me to go to Grad school. I remember everyone telling me that I could do anything I wanted and I could be successful in whatever I wanted, but I didn’t know what that meant. When I pictured my future, it was just blank. I was in sales after college and I was good at it, I just didn’t like it. I remember feeling that my parents and I spent all this money on my education and I’m wasting it! I think now, college is just so important. I think that it’s also so important for students to have examples of success that aren’t traditional because not everyone is looking to follow a traditional path.
HW: What would you say was that kind of ah-ha moment where you decided that you wanted to leave a six-figure salary and pursue your passion, pursue bobsledding?
LG: I wish I could say that it was that prophetic. I wish I could say I was that visionary. But it was a matter of me realizing that I really didn’t like my job, and my friend actually told me ‘you should bobsled’. And I have a rule for myself that any opportunity that is presented to me, I will see it out. So I went down to the training center, thinking alright I’ll do it, maybe I’ll bump into Michael Phelps, buy some cool gear or something! And then it kind of spiraled from there. From there on it just hooked! I figured my degrees in college will never expire but my ability to do something athletic might, so why not
HW: Do you want to continue in the Olympics and bobsledding? How were the Olympics?!
LG: The Olympics were amazing! I didn’t have any expectations that were unrealistic. As amazing as the Olympics are, it’s still a business. All the Olympians, you know like Chloe Kim and Adam Rippon work hard at their craft and have been doing their sport for a lifetime, but I had been only doing mine for four. So, truly, I was honestly just going to experience what it was like to be an Olympian. I worked really hard to be able to call myself an Olympian, but I just wanted to take it all in and meet as many people as I could.
HW: What was that silver medal moment like for you? What were the emotions going through your head?
LG: You know it’s funny because everyone always asks me about that moment. But in reality, I went in confident, I went in expecting to win a medal. I remember watching it back and just thinking, ‘I can’t believe the German team beat us by 0.07 seconds!’ So just winning the medal was great. This isn’t the popular answer, but I think people think that there are going to be these experiences in their life that are so life changing and eye-opening and there are, but they are always the moments that you don’t expect. You know, people always think that winning a silver medal is the coolest thing I have ever done, but in reality it’s the people along the way and the journey I have had and the support I’ve seen. It’s so much cooler than Geraldine, that’s what I call my silver medal.
CG: With that idea in mind, is that sort of how you would define success as well, is that you don’t necessarily see it coming?
LG: Yeah I think for me, the biggest way to find success was to find something that embodied who I wanted to be as a person and something I was passionate about. I think success is about finding something you want to do every single day because life is short and if you are going to spend that much time everyday doing it, you might as well enjoy it.
HW: Do you think that there is balance between having a passion and having a career?
LG: I think that the misconception is that just because you find something you are passionate about, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t going to have to work hard at it. I think one of my favorite quotes that I’ve said, which I didn’t even pick up that I said, is just ‘work harder, work harder, work harder, stop complaining about having to work harder’. I think people are afraid to work hard because there is there underlying chance of failure, but success comes with failures. I think too that the world doesn’t need one type of success. I think especially now, the world needs to practice kindness and openness. The world needs all kinds.
HW: So I have a quote from you that I think you said in an interview and you said you “compare riding in a bobsled to being in an airplane with really bad turbulence.” So what is that like, you know, to be on an Olympic team with Olympians like Elana Meyers Taylor in such a high-paced, intense sport?
LG: It’s funny you say that because my flight into Providence was full of really bad turbulence and when I stood up at the end of the flight I was like ‘congrats guys, you could all be really good bobsledders because that’s exactly what it feels like to be in a bobsled’. But it’s amazing! But I have always looked up to Olympians like Jamie Greubel Poser and Elana Meyers Taylor. It’s amazing how hard they push themselves. I used to think, how do they make it look so easy? But completing in the Olympics was the easiest thing I’ve done because all my hard work was over and lead up to that moment. It’s so applicable to life. If you do all the hard work first, it’s no longer hard work.
HW: What advice can you give to women competing in a career or field where it might be mainly dominated by men? What does it mean to be a strong woman in a sport or career or field of any kind?
LG: I just remember at 27 walking in my first day of work, wearing the wrong clothes, and being so much younger than everyone in corporate America, and walking into my first sales meeting, and our top sales rep asked me “how old are you?” And I said, “27, how old are you?!” He was 40! The point of that story is whether you’re a man or a woman or whoever you are, there are going to be aspects of your job that will be difficult. I think it’s not just about what’s fair and what is fair. But at the end of the day, most things are unfair. If you ask any of the girls who competed for my spot in the Olympics, they’d probably tell you that it’s unfair that I got my spot. But no matter what it is or who you are, you are going to have to work hard. You won’t like every part of your job or even every job you have. Just because you start somewhere, it doesn’t mean you have to be there forever. Take whatever you can from every opportunity and grow from there. You’re never too good for any job, so take every opportunity and learn from it.
HW: What do you think is the importance of going to college and having a degree and an education?
LG: I think it’s kind of like the medal, right? I remember when I graduated, there wasn’t this overwhelming sense of accomplishment. The piece of paper isn’t what you should be looking to get out of college, it should be about growing as a person, taking time to be yourself and make as many friends as possible and experiencing it all. I think college is about having all of the experiences you can have.