For Lolo Jones, high profile and low moments

SOCHI, Russia — Lolo Jones began to cry Monday while talking about how U.S. women’s bobsledders immediately had embraced her after what she described as being thrown under the double-decker bus by her track and field teammates at the 2012 London Olympics.

The temptation is to think they were crocodile tears, just another example of Jones cleverly managing her image to raise a profile already so high many think it is the reason she made the 2014 U.S. Olympic team as a sled pusher.

To critics, this was a case of USA Bobsled simply wanting to piggyback on the attention that has followed Jones since she lost the high hurdles gold medal at the 2008 Olympics by stumbling over the penultimate barrier. That attention increased four years later when she used Twitter to disclose her virginity, then turned decidedly from fame to notoriety when the U.S. hurdlers who won silver and bronze medals in London complained Jones received got more acclaim for finishing fourth.

It is part of why two of the other Olympic sled pusher candidates, Emily Azevedo and two-time world medalist Katie Eberling of Palos Hills, felt the federation had thrown them under the bus in its selection procedures.

Eberling, here as an alternate, could not understand why she had no chance this season to race with No. 1 driver Elana Meyers. Azevedo told USA Today she should have spent more time getting Twitter followers, with just 2,143 to Jones’ 377,150.

“I honestly wish Twitter followers would have given me the spot,” Jones said. “That means I would have been guaranteed one for real.”

Race results and start times showed Chicagoan Aja Evans the clear No. 1 among the sled pusher candidates. The numbers also made three-time Olympic sprinter Lauryn Williams relatively solid after just seven months in the sport. Jones was closest to the bubble.

“It was more like a funeral when the announcement was made,” Williams said. “You wanted to be happy for yourself, but you knew how hard the others worked. To see them show their hurt in a way that also hurt someone else was a very tough pill to swallow. Hopefully everyone can move past that hurt.”

Said Evans: “We all deserve our spots 110 percent.”

Williams, an Olympic silver medalist and world champion in the 100 meters, credited Azevedo for having been “my best teacher.” Meyers had been Eberling’s roommate on the bobsled circuit the last two years, and they won world silver and bronze medals together.

“(Katie) has been my stalwart,” Meyers said. “I cried when she didn’t make the team.”

Still, Meyers was first to mount a public defense of the push athlete choices, made by a selection committee that considered not only statistics but driver input. She said Eberling’s numbers weren’t as good as they had been in the past.

“It was an unfortunate time not to be at the top of your game,” Meyers said.

To the question of why Eberling got no rides in her sled, Meyers answered, “We were trying to see what she could do in the other sleds.”

Jones cannot understand why being popular, in terms of both name recognition and social media presence, should be held against her.

“You are taught when you do media stuff to be charming, to answer the questions, to be genuine,” she said. “I don’t know how that comes across as being negative so people will try to use it against you, like, ‘Oh, she has too many Twitter followers, so now we hate her.’ When I had 1,000, you wanted me to be outspoken and show you who I am.’’

Jones said the controversy has created an even tighter bond among the bobsledders. The evidence of that, she said, includes having both Meyers and Evans speak out in support of the selection.

There undoubtedly will be more controversy if Jones winds up in USA I or even in driver Jamie Greubel’s USA II sled when the driver-pusher pairings are announced Thursday. Such a move could be seen as manipulation to give Jones a better chance at a medal.

The push athlete’s role essentially ends when she jumps into the sled about six seconds after the start. From then on, the pusher tries to avoid any body movement that would upset the driver’s line.

“We are just speed and pushing the sled,” Jones said. “There are some technical aspects to it, but we aren’t driving.”

That Jones and Williams were able to become Olympic pushers so quickly suggests any good athlete could do it.

“I think people forget me and Lauryn were top athletes in the world in our (previous) sport,” Jones said. “It’s not like they were just recruiting Joe Schmoe off the street.’’

Meyers recruited Jones. Bobsled became a way for her to get out of a post-London funk.

“It gave me a fresh start, for sure,” Jones said.

Twitter @olyphil

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Olympic return for baseball, softball could get boost

    Olympic return for baseball, softball could get boost

    SOCHI, Russia – The International Olympic Committee could take another step this week toward getting baseball and women’s softball back into the Olympics as well as adding squash for the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.

  • Where to go to laugh while The Second City undergoes repairs

    Where to go to laugh while The Second City undergoes repairs

    The early-afternoon fire on Aug. 26 that started in the Adobo Grill restaurant next door to The Second City has forced the historic theater to move or cancel all of its performances in their Mainstage, e.t.c and UP Comedy Club theaters until at least Sunday, Sept. 20, which will mark 26 days without...

  • City to offer ticket, tax amnesty program

    City to offer ticket, tax amnesty program

    Faced with pushing through City Council a massive property tax increase and other fees as part of a 2016 budget, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is trying to slightly soften that politically difficult package by offering an amnesty program for people who have unpaid tickets and back taxes they owe the city.

  • O'Hare noise complaints top 2 million for year

    O'Hare noise complaints top 2 million for year

    Complaints about jet noise from O'Hare International Airport topped 2 million during the first seven months of this year — eight times the number filed in all of 2014, the Chicago Department of Aviation said Friday.

  • Second City to move or cancel shows through Sept. 20 after fire

    Second City to move or cancel shows through Sept. 20 after fire

    Second City announced Friday it is moving or canceling all performances scheduled in its Mainstage, e.t.c. Stage and UP Comedy Club theaters through Sept. 20 as the comedy company works to clean up after an extra-alarm fire destroyed its Old Town offices last week, though not the performance spaces.

  • Two new 'Empire' songs released before Season 2 premiere

    Two new 'Empire' songs released before Season 2 premiere

    Fox and Columbia Records this week released two new tracks for the second season of "Empire," a show that's filmed in Chicago.