Lolo Jones Controversy Will Not Be a Distraction in 2014 Winter Olympics

R. Cory Smith@@RCorySmithSenior Writer IJanuary 25, 2014

Elana Meyers and Lolo Jones of the USA, from right, pose for photographers after their second place in the women's Bobsled  World Cup race in Winterberg, Germany, on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
Martin Meissner/Associated Press

There are a lot of things Lolo Jones is good at. One of those things clearly isn't making friends with her bobsled teammates—most of them, anyway.

The announcement on Sunday, Jan. 19, that Lolo Jones would travel to Russia as a member of the U.S. bobsled team certainly ruffled some feathers in the bobsled community. According to Kelly Whiteside of USA Today, members of the bobsled team questioned the decision.

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

Another competitor who didn't make the team, Emily Azevedo, 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."

So Jones isn't a favorite among the bobsledding community, right? Well, maybe not. Teammate Elana Meyers, who will be with Jones in Sochi, clearly appears to be on her side as she tweeted about the hard work that Jones put in:

But the bobsledding team is full of athletes who have put their heart and soul into the sport for years. While Jones hasn't been in the sport as long, she has certainly put in the time and effort and was deserving of the opportunity.

Along with her tweet, Meyers issued a statement via Facebook about the situation, in an apparent attempt to unite her teammates and try to stop the backlash:

I have tried to remain quiet as long as possible, but some things must be clarified. We have a phenomenal group of women competing for the US Olympic team this year- from the top brakeman all the way down to brakeman who didn't even make the national team! It has truly been an honor and a privilege to slide with every single brakeman I've slid with these year, albeit in a race or in a training session; they all have worked extremely hard. However, difficult choices had to be made to narrow it down to 3 athletes for the Olympic team. The three athletes that were chosen for the Olympic team were chosen because of the numbers they have put up this season. In a sport where medals are won and lost by hundredths of a second, it is very important to analyze all the numbers and make the best decision to try to win Olympic medals for our country. Everyone may not agree with the decision, but the fact of the matter is, the numbers supported the selection committee's decision and 3 athletes were chosen. The three that were chosen have worked hard to earn there spots, and I am proud to call them my Olympic teammates. 

We should be celebrating our Olympians, not tearing them down. I'm amazed that out of all the people asked about the situation, not a single driver was asked about what happened over the course of the season. I am devastated for those who didn't make the team but I will celebrate for those who did. Now is a time for preparing for what lies ahead, and that's what me and my teammates are prepared to do.

Though Jones is the lightning rod for controversy, Meyers is clearly the veteran who can put out the fires. After competing in the Winter Olympics back in 2010, Meyers is returning to the stage in Sochi as one of the most experienced members of the team.

Meyers is an athlete who changed sports, switching from softball over to the bobsled circuit. The 29-year-old knows how difficult it can be to change a sport and be a part of a new atmosphere with athletes who have been working their entire lives to get to the Olympic stage. 

Jones won a silver medal with Meyers driving this season. Jones might not have the clout with her teammates to stand up for herself, but Meyers certainly does.

Another athlete who shares Meyers' sentiments is U.S. pilot Jazmine Fenlator. The 28-year-old also had success with Jones as the brakeman this season and told the TMZ staff that she has a great bond with Jones and the rest 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."

While Jones may never be able to avoid controversy throughout her Olympic career, she has teammates who can help her avoid it being a distraction. With Meyers and Fenlator on her side—Jones and Fenlator will likely be partners on the course—the former Summer Olympian appears to be in good hands.