By Justin Palmer
ROSA KHUTOR, Russia (Reuters) - To say USA-1 driver Elana Meyers has had a rough rollercoaster ride at the Sochi Games would be an understatement.
Quickest in three official training runs to underline her credentials as a gold medal contender, the American has also experienced the flip side of bobsleigh - twice crashing at the Sanki Sliding Centre.
The latest came on Saturday when a delayed braking maneuver sent her, brakeman Lauryn Williams and their BMW-designed sled careering head-on into a wall at the end of the finishing straight.
Meyers, who pushed Erin Pac to bronze in 2010, said she had been beaten up "physically, mentally, and emotionally".
As for the sled, it required urgent attention with parts hastily borrowed from an earlier prototype on display at USA House.
"It was pretty damaged," Meyers told reporters after completing official training on Sunday in her good-as-new sled.
"We ran into the wall, skidding around in the braking stretch... it was a head-on collision, one of the hardest hits I've ever taken in a bobsled.
"Luckily, we have some amazing mechanics who were able to get my sled to get ready to go today. They did an amazing job, I can't say enough about what my mechanics have done."
In a posting on her Facebook page on Saturday, Meyers said these Olympics "have been the most difficult athletic experiences of my life".
She was able to see the funny side a day later, saying with a grin: "Unfortunately, I'm a little rough on sleds".
"It's been a rough Olympic experience. I love this sport and I love being able to slide down the hill. Physically I'm a little beat up, it was a pretty hard shot we took."
Former world sprint champion Williams, like hurdler Lolo Jones a marquee recruit to the sport from athletics, came straight to the point about what she had learned from Saturday's crash.
"I don't need to wait three seconds to pull the brakes," quipped the 2012 Olympic 4x100 meters gold medalist who was selected to push Meyers in the top American sled after just one season in a bobsled.
"Time escapes you when your head is down. I kind of wanted to make sure we were past the finish line. It went a little bit overboard."
Williams, 30, said it would not happen again.
"To be in the number one sled - it's an honor that they have faith in me after being just six months in the sport.
"I know she's taking a chance on me, the coach is taking a chance on me and I plan to rise to the occasion."
Meyers has every faith in the girl who will be sitting behind her when the competition starts on Tuesday.
"You're not really taking a chance when you have one of the fastest women in the world behind you," she said.
"She doesn't give herself enough credit. This sport is not easy - it's not easy to come in and push a sled.
"For Lauryn to come in and be in the number one sled this quickly - that's a true testament to her ability as an athlete."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)