Former LSU track star Lolo Jones and Lauryn Williams were selected for the U.S. bobsled team that will compete in next month’s Sochi Olympics.
They are positioned to join a group of eight other Americans who have competed in both the Summer and Winter Games.
Jones is in her second season of bobsledding; she recruited Williams to the sport last year. They join Aja Evans, another Winter Olympic first-timer, as the push athletes in Sochi, along with drivers Jamie Greubel, Elana Meyers and Jazmine Fenlator.
Jones is a two-time veteran of the Summer Olympics in the 100-meter hurdles, missing out on gold in Beijing after a late stumble. Williams is a three-time summer Olympian who helped the U.S. win a gold medal in the 400-meter relay at the London Games.
U.S. officials announced the selections Sunday.
“This is the deepest field of push athletes we’ve ever had,” said Darrin Steele, the CEO of the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation. “We knew heading into the season that the Olympic selection was going to be extremely difficult. It’s a good problem to have, but it meant that some outstanding athletes would not make the Olympic team.”
In short, the U.S. had five women who became de facto finalists for the three push spots. Evans was widely considered a lock to make the team after a series of strong performances, both on and off the track.
Williams was part of four World Cup races this season, winning two silvers earlier in the campaign and then teaming with Greubel for a gold medal Sunday that surely made her résumé look a whole lot better.
“I had no idea what was in store for me this season,” Williams said. “I just wanted to come in with positive energy and help out. This is the first time I’ve been a part of a true team sport, and there’s someone else counting on you. You can’t let that person down, and that’s what drives me. It’s very important to give everything I have whenever I’m on that start line.”
That seemed to leave Jones, Emily Azevedo and Katie Eberling as the candidates for the final spot on the push crew. Jones won silvers with Greubel and Meyers driving this season. Eberling has scored world championship medals in the past and three World Cup bronzes this winter.
In the end, Jones was the call.
The U.S. qualified three men’s two-man sleds and two four-man sleds for Sochi. Reigning Olympic four-man champion Steven Holcomb will drive USA-1 and Nick Cunningham will be at the control of USA-2 in both disciplines, and Cory Butner will drive the third two-man entry.
Holcomb and his crew of Curt Tomasevicz, Steve Langton and Chris Fogt will be USA-1. Holcomb snapped a 62-year U.S. gold medal drought in the four-man event at the 2010 Vancouver Games, and now will try to give the U.S. its first two-man gold since 1936.
Justin Olsen, Johnny Quinn and Dallas Robinson will push Cunningham’s four-man sled.