Lolo Jones Doesn't Need Podium Finish in Bobsled for Sochi Games to Be Success

Steven CookFeatured Columnist IVFebruary 15, 2014

FILE - In this Oct. 25, 2013, photo, Lolo Jones, foreground, and teammate Jazmine Fenlator look up after racing in the U.S. women's bobsled team Olympic trials in Park City, Utah. Jones has gotten ill at the Sochi Olympics. Jones tweeted Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, that she was in a
Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

Lolo Jones, now in the midst of her third career Olympic appearance, won't be expected to medal this time around in her women's bobsled competition in the 2014 Sochi Games. 

And quite frankly, she doesn't need to in order for her efforts in these Winter Olympics to reap huge rewards. Her bobsledding prowess proved to be a huge accomplishment the moment she qualified for Sochi. 

The 31-year-old is no stranger to the Games after competing in the Summer Games for her first two Olympic appearances in the 100-meter hurdles in 2008 and 2012. 

She became an international sensation in the sport, winning world championships in 2008 and 2010 in 60-meter hurdles and entering the 2008 Beijing Olympics as a major front-runner for gold. However, she tripped over a late hurdle after distancing herself as the leader and fell off the podium.

Jones had to battle back from injuries to make it to the 2012 Games in London, where she didn't enter as the overwhelming favorite that she was in Beijing. The American nearly made it onto the podium with a fourth-place finish, but it still wasn't enough.

There's no doubt that her struggles at the Olympic level, particularly the fateful trip in 2008, have been tough for her to swallow. Even with all of the stardom and fame she's enjoyed thanks to her athleticism, there is a sense of emptiness in falling short at the top stage.

On the surface, Jones' entrance into the Winter Olympics as a bobsledder could look and feel like an attempt to salvage her Olympic career with an unlikely medal in a much different sporting event. And if Jones were to make it onto the podium, it would be a storybook ending for her.

Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

But her overall placing isn't what is important. The simple fact that she has made it to this level of the competition in a sport that she didn't get brought up in is astounding.

In general, most Olympic performers started playing the sport in question at a very young age. Whether they were involved with the sport practically since birth or came through the amateur ranks, the connection is always there.

Jones didn't have that for bobsledding. She didn't grow up with it. But it did serve as a huge stepping stone for her life, as she told New York Daily News' Filip Bondy: "Bobsled was my fresh start. Bobsled humbled me. Bobsled made me stronger. Bobsled made me hungry. Bobsled made me rely on faith. Bobsled gave me hope. I pushed a bobsled but bobsled pushed me to never give up on my dreams."

Other than those ways that bobsledding helped her, it's not hard to see other reasons for her motivation to dabble in the winter sport. For the most part, she's regarded as more of a celebrity than an athlete thanks to her focus in the public eye and her inability to step up on the biggest stage. 

Despite her popularity, she's coming in as an underdog in the Sochi Games, per Associated Press' Tim Reynolds:

Would an improbable medal in Sochi remedy that? Maybe a little. She still will have 2008 and 2012, but a medal would help alleviate some of those burdens.

But it's far from necessary. Jones has already made it to the Olympic finals in two different events—one summer, one winter. Very few athletes have been able to do that.

Some uneducated folk who are consuming Olympic content will see the likely event of Jones failing to medal in bobsledding and mark it up to her other shortcomings. And that would be a shame. 

Versatility is one of the most underrated yet valuable traits in sports, and she has shown plenty of it. Winning a medal in bobsledding would be the icing on the cake, but she's already proved her worth just by getting to Sochi.