Updated: Apr 11, 2019
When I first discovered Jessica Davis, she was an up and coming track star who proudly represented USC and team USA. With school records and championships, she was one that many kept their eyes on at track meets as a potential member of the future Olympic team. Unfortunately she didn't make the 2016 Rio Olympics but that only motivated her to come back stronger. As time went on and another track season was coming to an end, she told her coach, Gary Cablayan, that she was going to retire from track. He jokingly replied that she should try out for the bobsled team. The idea got her attention and she decided to look into it and see if it was possible.
The only person she talked to was Evan Weinstock during her process of trying out for the bobsled team. Evan was extremely helpful with every single question that she would have related to the sport. One thing that she knew that she had that correlated from track to bobsled was her speed. Speed is something you definitely want to have when you competitively bobsled, so it helped that she was running track prior, and used to having to use her quick speed and power for a takeoff. Still, there wer an immense amount of hurdles that she had to get over as far as technique because even though there are similarities, there are also differences.
"When you grow up running upright and with your arms swinging up and down, it’s not easy transitioning to running behind a sled. I still haven’t mastered my technique fully, but I think it’s something that comes with repetition and consistency."
When she found out that she had made the National Team she felt surprisingly calm. She believes it was because it was so unexpected. One of the first things I asked Jessica about was adapting to the colder temperatures of the new sport.
"Competing in a winter sport is unexplainable". "The way we look on TV is not how we feel in person. It is freezing cold and my toes were usually frozen. The race uniform that we wear does not keep us warm. Once you walk outside, the temperature of the weather gets erased in your head because you are so focused on the competition".
In bobsled there is not a women’s 4-man discipline, there's only a 2-man. The women are pushing hard for there to be a 4-man division because they believe that if there is a men’s division, there should also be a women’s. When you look at how great the women's national soccer, gymnastics, hockey, and basketball teams have represented the USA, I would agree that every sport should have equal opportunities. With a smaller team, a closer bond can be created though. Jessica and her teammate Brittany now have a bond that is unexplainable to her. During the season they built a friendship that will carry on past bobsledding and Jessica considers Brittany her soul sister.
Though she was a rookie, Jessica didn't actually feel any pressure at all.
"I think coming in to a new sport most, people feel pressured, but I didn’t, and I don’t think I ever will feel that way."
As the season went on, Jessica gained more confidence. Then the big day came! Jessica and her team finished 3rd to win the bronze medal at the World Championships.
"I felt a warm tingling feeling as I received my bronze medal. I knew in that moment that I had to cherish it. So I really just enjoyed the moment and tried to sulk up every emotion possible. Oh lord! Jesus, yes!"
The season wasn't without the expected bumps and bruises though. She did experience a crash and described it as horrible and something she hopes to never experience again. Thankfully she was able to walk away unharmed and understands that it’s a part of the sport. She knows that every single time she jumps in the sled that there is a chance she could crash. To stay calm, she continues to pray for their safety each and every time.
Now that she's had success in the sport, and could potentially get better with practice, I asked if she has considered going back next season but she couldn't give a definite answer. She didn't have any specific reason to persuade her either way so for now it's just a possibility based on how she feels when the time comes to make a decision. When I asked her which sport she would choose if she could do it for the rest of her career, I got a surprising answer of basketball. But if forced to choose between track and bobsled she would chose bobsled since she ran track most of her life. She's run for so many competitive years that she has become worn out and now prefers to watch and coach the sport instead.
"My favorite memory from bobsled would have to be spending time with the girls I’ve become close with. I’ve met some beautiful souls through bobsled."
I was a bit disappointed when I discovered she had not seen the movie Cool Runnings. I had asked if she and Brittany practiced their turns in the tub the night before their races, and that was when I discovered she has never seen my favorite movie. She did say that she would audition for the movie if they made a women's version. I didn't ask if she would carry a lucky egg with her, but I think she may consider it if she watches the movie and returns to bobsled.
The last topic I wanted to to discuss with Jessica was the diversity within the sport. It's obvious that certain sports will have a more racially dominated fan base, which usually is also seen in the diversity, or lack thereof when it comes to the athletes who participate in it. When it comes to bobsled, we agreed that mostly Caucasian's tend to be interested or aware of the sport.
"It’s not something that the black culture is raised on or even enlightened on. I definitely would encourage any race to try new things, just like everything else in life, try to step out of that comfort zone. It’s scary, but it’s fun!"
To me, every young black girl who looks up to Jessica, can now be exposed to new and great opportunities. The way she handled herself on and off the track, and then the ice, showed how you can accomplish great things and still remain humble. Her faith keeps her grounded and confident. Her personality will never allow you to be down on life because her smile, sense of humor, and energetic laugh, are full of life and will continue to bring energy and joy to everyone she interacts with. There are days where I've personally been stressed out, upset, depressed, or any other negative emotion you can imagine, saw one of her daily social media posts on social media, and immediately started smiling and laughing. We need more people like Jessica, who are willing to stand up and take chances, and accept the role of being a role model to the youth, even if that wasn't planned on.