Lolo Jones Deserving of Opportunity in 2014 Winter Olympics with US Bobsled Team

R. Cory SmithSenior Writer IJanuary 24, 2014

FILE - In this Oct. 25, 2013, photo, Jazmine Fenlator, right, and Lolo Jones look up after coming to a stop after racing in the U.S. women's bobsled team Olympic trials in Park City, Utah. The U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation is defending Jones' selection to the team picked to compete in the Sochi Olympics, saying it relied on data, results and nothing else. Jones is one of three athletes picked to push sleds in Sochi. She was named to the team Sunday night, Jan. 19. The federation has gotten a number of complaints since suggesting that it chose Jones because of her popularity. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

What would the 2014 Winter Olympics be without controversy?

Strange and sometimes unbelievable stories typically come out leading up to the Winter Olympics and other huge events. Whether it was the toilet situation in Sochi or the fact that Ashley Wagner made the U.S. Women's Figure Skating team, several interesting narratives have already come out.


And when it was announced that Lolo Jones would be a member of the U.S. Bobsled team when the team travels to Russia, it certainly ruffled some feathers in the bobsled community. According to Kelly Whiteside of USA Today, members of the bobsled team don't seem to approve of the decision.

"It's hard for me to name one or two athletes that would completely agree with that decision," veteran brakeman Curt Tomasevicz said.

Tomasevicz's remark was blunt, but certainly not the worst. Emily Azevedo, who didn't make the team behind Jones, believes the decision came down to more of a popularity contest than an actual competition, telling Whiteside, "I should have been working harder on gaining Twitter followers than gaining muscle mass."

Darrin Steele, the CEO of the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, claims that they followed the correct protocol and said the decision came down to who was better leading up to the Olympic Trials because the numbers were so close, according to Whiteside:

There is no doubt in my mind that people are disappointed that Katie and Emily did not make the team. But it's never about publicity or marketing. The best way to market the sport is by winning.

We followed the procedure and I'll stand by that decision all day long. It was a really close call. The numbers were close. There's no question about it. That always makes it more difficult. The trending was going toward Lolo and she's a great athlete and at the end of the day that's who we think is a better brakeman for the Games.

There will be those that say Jones isn't deserving and didn't earn her spot the correct way. But when it comes down to it, the ability that Jones brings to the table makes her worthy of the spot on the bobsled team.

Does it bring attention to the sport that might not have been there without her? Yes. Will people tune in to see if she wins or falls flat on her face? Yes. But is her making the team also a byproduct of hard work paying off? Yes, it certainly is.

Despite the outcry from some of her teammates and others who were spurned because of Jones making the team, others have chosen to embrace the brakeman. Elana Meyers, who will be participating in her second Winter Olympics in Sochi, tweets that Jones worked hard to earn the opportunity:

According to the TMZ Staff, Jazmine Fenlator, a pilot for the bobsled team, doesn't share the same hostility toward Jones as some of her teammates. "The Olympic team has developed a bond. We have each other’s backs," said Fenlator. "We have great chemistry together [...] don’t know how the team would do without her."

Much like Wager in figure skating, Jones was chosen for the Winter Olympics based on her body of work. The two-time Olympian in hurdling has been at the highest level and knows what the stress is like, and was also impressive enough coming into the Olympic Trials to put herself ahead of other competitors.

Disputes will continue throughout the Winter Olympics as to whether or not Jones should be on the U.S. Bobsled team, but it is clearly not just about the buzz that she creates for the team. While that may be one factor, it certainly isn't the only reason she made the team.

Controversy will always be a significant part of any sport, but Jones' opportunity with the U.S. Bobsled team was one that was earned, not given.


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