WYCKOFF, N.J. (BVM) — Lauren Brzozowski was a sprinter with one of the best U.K. track and field programs — Loughborough University (LU) — up until March 2020. But now, exactly one year later, she is preparing for her second season as a development bobsled pilot on Team USA.
Without knowing it at the time, the 23-year-old changed the trajectory of her athletic career after she made the decision to fly back home to New Jersey. She was concerned about the pandemic-related travel restrictions and decided that her family and safety needed to come first.
“I didn’t want to give up track for anything in the world,” Brzozowski said. “[COVID-19 didn’t get better and once I realized I was not going back], all I knew was that I was desperate to keep competing in really anything.”
Several months later, in October, she was given the opportunity to compete again. With the help of a friend in the sport, Brzozowski came in contact with a recruit who set her up to compete in an online combine: an event used to test the skills of past and future bobsled athletes.
“I thought it was so cool because it’s a crazy looking sport but I didn’t know at the time if I could really be good,” Brzozowski said. “When things got more real and I kept getting invited back I was like, ‘wow I have to actually do this.’”
Brzozowski makes joining a whole new sport look too easy. She was picked top four out of thousands of submissions before eventually being selected as a rookie for Team USA. Even though she had basically zero skills on the ice her many years of running on the track set her up for success.
“I’m a speed and strength-based track athlete and sprinting is the best asset I have,” Brzozowski said. “Being able to push a 400-pound sled as fast as I can is not easy but [my track career prepared me for this moment in my life].”
The amateur bobsledder, who specializes in women’s monobob, used what she was already good at to carry her through the season. She had the fastest push-start time during her first competition in January with Team USA at Park City, Utah — beating the start time of 2018 bobsled Olympic qualifier Carrie Russell from Team Jamaica.
“I can’t believe I made it this far,” Brzozowski said, “Going 80mph down a bobsled track is not something everyone is born to do and I’m learning it comes with a lot of hard work, discipline and sometimes a few crashes to figure it out and stay competitive. But you have to be able to get back in the sled for the love of the game.”
But Brzozowski knows luck is not always on her side. She competed in a friendly race in Lake Placid, N.Y., in February and became disoriented after crashing. But nothing could keep her down and she ended up picking herself up to win the race.
“Bobsled is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Brzozowski said. “There’s a lot of risk since you can get trapped under the bobsled sometimes and even burn your skin. But I have goals and what’s the point of living if you don’t chase your goals?”
A year ago, her goals included becoming a Team USA Olympic sprinter and although she said she misses track, Brzozowski knows she wouldn’t change anything even if she could stop her past-self from leaving LU.
“I’ve always been driven to compete at the highest level of track,” Brzozowski said. “I thought I could get there around 30, but with bobsled, I think I can make the national team earlier and make this dream more possible.”
Brzozowski is training to become “one of the fastest at the top of the hill and also one of the best drivers,” but she said it will take her up to eight years to master the driving portion. She is currently preparing for her next season as a second-year monobobber and she’ll compete in another combine later this year to show that she still deserves a spot on the team.
But on top of her sport, Brzozowski is also looking for other opportunities. She obtained her master’s in marketing last year and is interested in balancing a remote marketing position. She also said, “I am close to my former high school track coaches at Ramapo High School and I want to give back to the community and high school students somehow.”
She’ll always think back on her favorite track memories as she continues to cheer on her former teams. She said she “doesn’t regret anything that happened because this was the perfect time to come to this sport.” But, in actuality, she does have one regret.
“Missing out on team trials this year made me regret not trying out for the team sooner,” Brzozowski said. “But seeing Team USA fight to earn a spot at the Beijing Olympic Games only makes me more excited to not only cheer them on, but also, work my butt off to earn a spot on the 2026 team. I remain excited to see if I can one day be as great as these phenomenal athletes and shock not only myself but also the world out on the ice.”