Lolo Jones Can Still Be Success Without Medal at Winter Olympics 2014

Alex EspinozaCorrespondent IIIFebruary 7, 2014

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 03:  (BROADCAST-OUT) Bobsledder Lolo Jones of the United States visits the set of The Today Show ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Olympic Park on February 3, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

You better get up to speed with the U.S. women's bobsled team, which have started calling themselves "The Wolfpack."

While Friday, Feb. 7, marks the opening ceremonies for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, The Wolfpack will have to wait until Feb. 18 to compete. That gives you plenty of time to get to know the following nicknames of these six elite athletes, as passed along by Nick Zaccardi of NBC Olympic Talk.

2014 U.S. Winter Olympic Women's Bobsled Team
Elana MeyersDriverE Money
Jamie GreubelDriverDragon
Jazmine FenlatorDriverJWoww
Aja EvansBrakemanStorm
Lauryn WilliamsBrakemanWildebeest
Lolo JonesBrakemanHoney Badger

Of all the names on that list, none have generated more controversy than former USA track star Lolo Jones.

She has gained a huge following through her Olympic endeavors over the past few years. Jones entered the 2008 Beijing summer games as the favorite to win the 100-meter hurdles. She looked the part in the final race, jumping out to a big lead, but she clipped one of the final hurdles (1:14 mark of the video below) before finishing seventh.

In retrospect, it was her best chance to win a gold medal, as she also qualified for the 2012 summer games in London but finished fourth in 100 meter hurdles. For all of her fame, Jones had no Olympic medals to show for it.

Later that year, she made an eventful trip up to Lake Placid, N.Y., where she made a good impression in a tryout for the U.S. national bobsled team. And as Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press wrote, that trip meant more to Jones than an athletic breakthrough. She also found new teammates.

Jones was depressed, underweight after not really eating for a month or so after London, and in desperate need of change. Fenlator didn't even recognize Jones, thinking instead she was a distance runner because of her much leaner-than-usual build at the time.

"I mean, I have legit stats or whatever but sometimes you kind of forget those especially if you get thrown under the bus so many times in the media," Jones said. "I've even been thrown under the bus by my teammates in track and field. So to go into the training center and they barely knew me and they kind of just took me under their wing and were like, 'No, you're one of us.'"

Once Jones was named as the third and final push athlete for the 2014 Sochi team, there was a big backlash that someone with such a short bobsled resume could represent America on the sport's biggest stage.

Veterans Emily Azevedo and Katie Eberling, who many viewed as snubs for Jones' spot on the U.S. squad, stirred up the controversy with strong statements they made to Kelly Whiteside of USA Today.

"I should have been working harder on gaining Twitter followers than gaining muscle mass," said Emily Azevedo, who along with teammate Katie Eberling, was in the running for the spot Jones received.

Eberling said there was an agenda to put Jones on the team.

"I feel this year there was a certain agenda," Eberling said. "It's no fault of my teammates. There's been a lot of inconsistencies and that makes you wonder what's going on. It's not right."

While Azevedo and Eberling placed the blame squarely on the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, their comments are provocative.

It's easy to peg this as a publicity stunt, and there will be plenty of attention focused on Jones. She and fellow brakeman Lauryn Williams will become the ninth and 10th American athletes to compete in both versions of Olympics, as she was a track medalist in the 2004 and 2012 summer games.

So that brings us to the expectations for Jones in Sochi.

Late last summer, Jones finished fifth in the national push championship, behind Evans (first), Eberling (second), Williams (third) and Azevedo (fourth), so you can see why there has been so much made of Jones' selection.

But in the end, this isn't about Jones getting a medal. This is about her showing that she can hold her own in the new sport, and that means a competitive time.

The U.S. women took gold in 2002, silver in 2006 and bronze in 2010, but it's unjust to expect Jones to be responsible for such accomplishments. That's because America's best medal hopes don't lie with Jones, nor do they lie with whoever would have made the team in her place—they lie with top driver Elana Meyers

Meyers (pictured left) also made headlines during the team selection process, as she defended Jones via Facebook shortly after the announcement was made.

The driver-brakeman pairings haven't been announced yet, but unless Jones has Meyers as a partner, it might be tough to reach the podium. Meyers was the bronze medal-winning brakeman with pilot Erin Pac in Vancouver in 2010, but now she's separated herself as America's best pilot.

Best-case scenario for Jones: She gets paired up with Meyers and wins a gold medal, silencing all of her doubters. Worst-case scenario: She looks in over her head and falters with a poor finish, opening the door to further questions about her place on the Olympic squad.

But a medal shouldn't be the be-all and end-all for Jones in Sochi. Simply finishing among the top half of the world's competition should be considered a victory for Jones, who is sure to be a lightning rod for discussion as the Winter Games wear on.