Though bobsledding has given her a second life, it's looking increasingly like Lolo Jones will never reach the podium in Olympic competition.
Alongside partner Jazmine Fenlator, Jones competed in the first two heats of the two-man run on Tuesday, compiling a time of 1 minute, 56.73 seconds. Jones and Fenlator's overall time was good enough for an 11th-place standing, putting them well behind leaders Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams of the United States, who have a total time of 1:54.89.
Jamie Greubel and Aja Evans are in third, 0.56 seconds off the pace.
|1||United States 1||1:54.89|
|3||United States 2||1:55.45|
|11||United States 3||1:56.73|
Given the USA-3 sled—another name for the third-fastest sled—Jones performed as expected considering the circumstances, sitting behind the other two American teams. With two more runs coming Wednesday, Jones and Fenlator will look to improve their splits and perform comparably to their U.S. counterparts.
However, despite her struggles, Jones became the 10th American to compete in both the Summer and Winter Games (via Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press):
And now Lolo Jones is officially the 10th American to compete in different sports at the Summer and Winter Olympics.— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) February 18, 2014
Jones' addition to the United States bobsled roster for Sochi came as the source of controversy. A decorated hurdler with Summer Olympics performances under her belt and a reputation of coming up just short in the medal round, Jones picked up bobsledding to help her train.
There were some, including fellow bobsledders, who saw Jones' selection as a publicity stunt. While ultimately deserving, her high national profile would ostensibly garner more attention to bobsledding than a typical, one-sport athlete—someone who "deserved" the nod. Ultimately, the United States stuck with its decision and gave Jones the No. 3 sled.
Even though some were unhappy with Jones' inclusion, her side of the United States team was not expected to compete for a medal. Fenlator, like Jones, is in her first Winter Olympics. The U.S. bobsled team was ultimately far more invested in the performances of Meyers and Greubel, who were selected as potential medalists by the AP.
Jones, whose Summer Olympic shortcomings were part of the reason she began bobsledding, told Tim Reynolds of the AP (via ABC News) she doesn't mind being the underdog:
It's completely different. It's absolutely different. There's no pressure. It's Jaz's first Olympics. She's all about just having a good experience and just executing. That's the two goals for her. And for me it's just all about being the best teammate and giving her the best, most amazing push and velocity that she could ever ask or hope for.
With little pressure on either woman, Jones and Fenlator have relaxed for the most part. They knew, in all likelihood, these Games were not for them. Jones cited the surprising losses of Shani Davis and Shaun White, calling this the "Olympics of the underdogs," and Fenlator was open with her desires to medal as well.
"Yes, it's my first Olympics," Fenlator said. "Yes, I'm an underdog or whatever you want to say. But I'm here on a mission. And I have expectations to do well."
Ultimately, it was always better to think of Jones and Fenlator realistically. The reality was Jones was stuck in the third sled—not expected to medal. And while her national profile probably played a slight factor in her selection, the attention will ultimately be good for the sport in the long term.
Jones is a famous person participating in a sport which those stateside barely pay attention to outside the two-week Olympic period. If her addition to the team increases awareness and leads to increased participation, better athletes will ultimately wind up helping the program.
Her fame and the controversy of her selection will lead to scrutiny, which is ultimately unfair. No one will ever know how she may have performed in a better sled, or even if she was placed with a more experienced partner.
That's likely little solace for Jones, who understandably wants to shed her medal-less reputation. But as long as we're talking about bobsledding, she's ultimately done her job in Sochi.
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