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Bobsled Beginner to World Cup Brakeman: Emily Renna's Rise to the Top

ByLaura Luzzi

4 min read

Bobsled Beginner to World Cup Brakeman: Emily Renna's Rise to the Top

Emily Renna grew up in Fairport, New York, a suburb of Rochester, as a decorated athlete on her high school’s track and field team. A member of the Fairport High School varsity team since her freshman year, Emily quickly excelled in hurdles. 


Emily’s unique blend of athleticism and her academic achievements afforded her the opportunity to attend the University of Rhode Island. With a partial academic scholarship already in-hand, Emily earned a spot as a walk-on spot on URI’s track and field team. She specialized in hurdles and sprints and was red-shirted as a freshman. As a sophomore, Emily ran a really good time and earned an athletic scholarship, which she was able to combine with her academic scholarship.


After completing her undergraduate degree, Emily immediately pursued her Masters at URI and ran her fifth year of track. She looks back on this time with awe because of her hectic schedule, which included being a teaching assistant, track athlete and Masters student. Emily interned with a pharmaceutical company in Washington, D.C. and accepted a job offer from them after completing her degrees. She worked in corporate America for three years when her drive to compete in something athletic returned.


Emily ventured to Park City, Utah in September of 2019 and tried out for the bobsled combine. The U.S. Bobsled team created an ad hoc rookie camp in Lake Placid, New York a few weeks later, where Emily pushed a sled for the first time. Emily was finally given the opportunity to slide in January of 2020, and she hated it because she got motion sickness and needed to lay down for 30 minutes. A few athletes there suggested Emily take dramamine before her next run, and she still takes a small dose when she slides, to this day.


During the pandemic, Emily rented gym equipment from a local gym and was selected for her first national bobsled team in November of 2020. She was also named to the World Cup team that same year, which she found out the day before Christmas. This was the best Christmas gift Emily could have hoped for and was ecstatic! She left for Europe one week later.


Emily is sponsored by Xendurance, a company that participates in the “informed choice” athletic standard, which is very important because athletes are tested for performance enhancing drugs. Xendurance’s products do not contain any banned substances, which makes them safe for Olympic hopefuls. Emily met her boyfriend, Elliot Markuson, partially as a result of this sponsorship because he “slid into her DMs” and began asking questions about Xendurance products. Elliot is also a member of the Team USA Bobsled team. Emily and Elliot formed a fast friendship after meeting for the first time at the North American Cup in November of 2021. Elliot has anecdotally shared that he gave Emily extra food at the group’s potluck dinner because he thought she was pretty. Although this act went unnoticed by Emily, they did begin dating a little over a year later.


In the 2022 - 2023 season, Emily was ranked as one of the top brakemen, also known as a push athlete. Her job is to give the sled a really good push at the start of the race and pull on the brakes when necessary. The pilots rely heavily on their brakemen. Emily medaled at her first world cup in Whistler that season, where she took home a bronze. Impressively, Emily also made her first world championship team that year and was honored to race with the team at Saint Moritz in Switzerland, the birthplace of bobsled. 


After winning the National Push Championship in the 2023 - 2024 season, Emily is back in Switzerland. She is currently on the World Cup circuit and raced in France. Emily was honored to race alongside Elana Meyers Taylor, a five time olympic athlete. Emily also earned a bronze medal in France.


There was a break in the World Cup circuit tour and Emily was able to return home to Alexandria, Virginia where she and Elliot have lived since the spring of 2023. Although Elliot recently had a hip replacement, Emily is hopeful that he will be able to join her on the World Cup tour next year because he’s recovering quickly. Emily’s success extends beyond her athletic career. In addition to tirelessly pursuing her athletic goals, she works as a Clinical Case Manager for Bioregenx, a biotech company offering microvascular regenerative solutions.


Stay tuned as Emily’s worldwide Bobsled adventure is just getting started! 

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