It seems like no matter where Lolo Jones goes or what sport she competes in, controversy has a way of finding her.
Jones is one of the most popular and recognizable female athletes in the world, but she also happens to be one of the most maligned as well. The criticism continued this week when Jones commented on her paltry paycheck from the United States Bobsled and Skeleton Foundation with a humorous Vine on Twitter.
While Jones' best sport is track, as evidenced by her qualifying for the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics in the 100-meter hurdles, she has since decided to try her hand at bobsledding. The transition has been a successful one thus far with Jones capturing a gold medal in the mixed team event at the 2013 World Championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
Jones is very much in the running to represent the United States at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia as a brakeman. Her switch to bobsledding has seemingly rubbed some people the wrong way from the start, so the paycheck situation certainly hasn't endeared her to those who already took issue with her.
Lolo's $741.84 check for seven months of bobsled training is likely a far cry from what she is used to making on the track. Steven Holcomb, an Olympic gold medalist in bobsledding, wasn't amused by Jones' joke, according to Kelly Whiteside of USA Today.
The way it came across to a lot of the athletes here was kind of snobby because she's one of the most well-known athletes in the world and she's making pretty good money in endorsements (Holcomb said). And to basically turn around and slap us in the face because you didn't make any money this year in bobsledding while taking money from other's athletes? She slapped pretty much every athlete in the U.S. federation in the face. That was the general consensus.
Holcomb's sentiments are nothing new; Jones seems to be constantly under siege.
She was a heavy favorite in the 100-meter hurdles in the Beijing Games back in 2008, but a clipped hurdle caused her to finish seventh. The challenges didn't stop there for her.
According to Julia Savacool of ESPN.com, Jones had to undergo surgery to repair a tethered spinal cord back in 2011. Despite that, she was able to work her way back and once again qualify for the Olympics in less than one year.
Such an incredible feat would normally be applauded, but that wasn't the case when it came to Jones. She just missed out on the podium in London when she finished fourth, but instead of portraying her as a hero in the media, she was cut down in a vitriol-laced article by Jere Longman of the New York Times.
Jones was clearly one of the best hurdlers in the world at the time and her recovery from injury proved that winning an Olympic medal meant everything to her. That didn't stop Longman from accusing Jones from using her looks to gain publicity. The article even featured a quote from Janice Forsyth of the International Centre for Olympic studies, which compared Jones to former tennis player Anna Kournikova.
The comparison was ridiculous. Kournikova never won a WTA title in her career and was never ranked higher than No. 8 in the world. Jones, on the other hand, twice won gold at the World Indoor Championships, so she reached the pinnacle of her sport.
The fact of the matter is that there are people out there who simply don't seem to like Jones' personality. That leads them to criticize everything that she does without stopping to think about the reasons behind her actions.
It's certainly possible that Jones' Vine was meant solely as a vehicle for her to whine about her check, but perhaps there were ulterior and admirable motives behind it. If Jones is to be believed, then that is precisely the case. According to Whiteside, Jones tried to explain herself in a statement released through her sponsor, Red Bull:
The vine of the paycheck is just showing the difference between track and bobsled, and to be honest bobsledders work more hours than track! The bottom line is that all Olympic athletes dedicate their lives to their sports and do not receive lucrative paychecks like athletes in mainstream professional sports. So hopefully this will make people appreciate just how hard Olympians work, often just for the love of the sport.
The fact that Jones admitted that she has to work harder now than she did as a track athlete proves that she isn't trying to show up her counterparts. The Vine seemed to be more about raising awareness than anything else and there is no question that Jones has done that.
While Jones is still new to the sport, she is easily bobsledding's biggest star in the United States and arguably the biggest bobsledding star in the entire world. When she speaks people listen, so the general public is now well aware of the struggles that bobsledders go through.
Also, Jones' status with the United States bobsled team figures to have a trickle-down effect at some point. She'll likely make much better money moving forward, especially if she makes the Olympic team. This will generate interest in the sport, which will then lead to new stars being built.
Once that happens, the conditions will be better for everyone involved. Bobsledders like Holcomb are probably upset because they feel like an outsider is infringing upon their sport, but Jones is making waves that will inevitably lead to a positive impact in the future.
Even though Jones is key to the development of bobsledding in the United States, she is bound to be met with resistance moving forward. Jones has been labeled the "bad girl" in the past and it seems like the same thing is happening in her new sport.
If everyone in bobsledding benefits from her involvement in the sport, however, how bad can she really be?
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