Larry Wade, when he was an assistant track coach at UNLV, saw Kaysha Love’s combination of size, strength and speed and thought those traits might transfer to bobsledding.
He mentioned that sport to Love almost in passing in her junior year in 2018. She didn’t take him seriously.
So Wade didn’t bring up the topic for another two years. This time, he made the point more directly. Love listened and decided to try a sport that, despite growing up in the snowy, mountainous Salt Lake City area, was foreign to her.
Wade turned out to be prescient. Love not only threw herself into bobsledding, but a year later was proficient enough to make the U.S. World Cup team. Now she will represent her country in the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing on the four-woman team, beating out three prior Olympians.
“You talk about a young lady basically in 12 months, went into a sport she had never done before, committed 150 percent to it and earned a spot on the Olympic team,” Wade said. “That’s unheard of.”
The opening ceremony is Friday, Feb. 4, and the two-woman bobsledding competition is Feb. 18-19.
Love, 24, said the pairings haven’t been announced, but either way she will be the pusher for a pilot with Olympics experience and success. Elana Meyers Taylor has two two silver medals and a bronze. Naturalized American citizen Kaillie Humphries was a two-time gold medalist for Canada.
“There are not many people that can say that they have the opportunity to push the best pilots in the world,” Love said. “Team USA doesn’t have just one pilot. We have two of the best pilots in the world, so I’m so grateful and honored to have the opportunity to have pushed either one of them this season, and I’m extremely grateful and excited to push whoever when it comes time (in the Olympics).”
Competing in the Olympics is a lifelong dream for Love, but she thought it might be in gymnastics or later in track at the Summer Games, especially as a track star at Herriman High School in the Salt Lake area. She led her team to four state titles and was Utah’s Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior.
Georgia, Louisiana State and Texas were among the schools who recruited Love, but she moved down Interstate 15 to run for UNLV.
She became part of the 4 x 100-meter relay team that ran an outdoor school-record 43.81 seconds. Love also was on the 4 x 400 relay team that ranks third for the Rebels in indoor (3:38.65) and fifth in outdoor (3:35.35).
Her indoor time in the 60 meters is fourth at 7.33.
“A lot of bobsled pushers are former track athletes, so they look to track athletes to fill that void,” said former UNLV track coach Yvonne Wade, who is married to Larry Wade. “That’s a very common transition for sprinters, especially power sprinters to be a pusher because the movement is very similar.”
Once Love decided to give bobsledding a try late in 2020, she was invited by a U.S. bobsled coach to a rookie camp. UNLV let Love leave during the indoor season for Lake Placid, New York, and miss three months.
“We were all for it and very supportive,” Yvonne Wade said. “We crossed our fingers that she came back healthy enough to finish the outdoor season for us.”
Lake Placid was an introductory class to the sport. Training took place with a bobsled on wheels on a dry-land track. Love said she looked like a first-timer, laughing about her coach once having to rescue her as she fell.
“At that camp, I was actually a hot mess,” Love said. But the camp was far from a disaster. Love shocked herself by becoming the top performer in Lake Placid.
She got in actual bobsled work a month later in Park City, Utah, competing on the North American Cup circuit.
That led to a spot on the U.S. World Cup team. She competed in six races this season and finished no worse than sixth, loving a sport still relatively new to her but one that provides “the adrenaline rush that going 80 miles an hour down ice gives you.”
“It wasn’t love at first sight,” Love said, “but it definitely made its way in there.”
The file on Kaysha Love
Olympics: Member of the U.S. bobsled team
Experience: First appearance
Previous sport: Track sprinter at UNLV