If you can’t win an Olympic medal in running, why not try bobsledding? As a bobsledder, you’re required to build up speed at the start, hop in the sled gracefully, and then let the driver do the work. Seems fairly transferable, right? You’ve got to be fast, strong, and coordinated: an Olympic hurdler fits that bill perfectly.
Though she did not medal in either the 2008 or 2012 Summer Olympics, the beautiful and charming hurdler Lolo Jones turned the heads of the media. And now, quite frankly, veteran bobsledders are feeling shafted by her recently becoming the face of their sport. Some might even go as far as saying Lolo is getting more press than LiLo. Whoa, that’s serious stuff!
LoLo’s two trips to the Summer Games ended in heartbreak and depression. In 2008, she was favored to win the 100-meter hurdles and led until she clipped the ninth hurdle, stumbling to seventh place. In 2012 she finished fourth, a tenth of a second off from the Bronze. Later that year she took up bobsledding as a unique alternative to her unlucky hurdling streak, recently landing her a spot on 2014 Team USA as one of three push athletes who will compete in Sochi. Finally, a chance to secure that elusive Olympic medal!
But not without controversy, and lots of it.
I’ve always been floored by a typical sprinter’s lower body strength. As a distance runner myself, I’d look at sprinters’ muscular, solid legs and feel miniscule–intimidated even. No one can deny that Lolo’s physique, life-long training regimen, and the dedication that landed her on the Olympic teams two times before now. Her natural athletic ability, and ungodly speed had something to do with her securing a spot on the USA Bobsledding team; however, I think there might be some weight to the argument that media bulldozed over ‘just-as-qualified’ and ‘more experienced’ bobsledders due to Lolo’s innate popularity. Selection committees stand by their choice in spite of the criticism, saying she’s the best bet for a USA win and scales tipped in her favor, despite all the hypocrisy.
According to Time Sports, two veteran bobsledders who were contenders for push athlete spots, Emily Azevedo and Katie Eberling, were easily overlooked in the presence of Lolo. Azevedo was quoted as saying “I should have been working harder on gaining Twitter followers than gaining muscle mass.” Jones has 375,000 followers compared to her meager 2,000 and Eberling’s 796. Azevedo placed fifth on the Team USA Bobsled team in Vancouver. Eberling is a three-year veteran with a superior history. Both will be alternates to Lolo. Were the scales unfairly tipped toward Lolo’s favor? Hardcore bobsled fans were disgraced and blamed it all on politics. Sounds like a sequel to the case of Ashley Wagner, another gorgeous gal who just happened to secure a spot on the USA figure skating team despite several falls on basic jumps and a fourth place finish at Nationals. Have the Olympic games really stooped so low as to place television ratings above athletic ability?
NBC seems to have an mega crush on Lolo. She was the last to make the team but the first to make the spotlight, featured in the middle of The Nightly News broadcast, an image of her pretty face flashing over Brian Williams. Today show host, Savannah Guthrie, gushed over Lolo in a satellite interview the next day, where none of her teammates were even featured. Some say Lolo is NBC’s replacement for their sexy ski queen headliner, Lindsay Vonn, now that Vonn is injured and out for the count. Maybe they needed another pretty lady to drum up publicity around the Games. Lolo’s been featured in Women’s Health and has been known to promote herself by posting pretty ‘selfies’; if there is indeed a publicity scheme, she sure seems like a good candidate.
Then again, January bobsledding stats (the time when peaking is most important) can’t be denied. Lolo is on fire. She finished 7th at the World Cup in Austria on January 19th while Eberling finished 17th a week prior. On January 5th, Jones raced in another World Cup and placed 2nd. She’s a natural athlete and there’s no denying that she has quickly mastered the sport of bobsledding. She’s not the first Olympian to convert, either; heck, Lolo’s teammate Lauryn Williams won silver sprinting in the 2004 Olympics. Some say bobsledding is an ‘easy’ sport to pick up, but LoLo disagrees. She said it took incredible hard work and dedication for the past two years to even get close to where she is today.
Jones seems to thrive on attention, and has a habit of ticking off her teammates as a favored media star who ends up in the vortex of it all. Just days before the London Olympics she announced, out of nowhere, that she was a virgin. Obviously that has nothing to do with the Olympics, but could have something to do with attracting male eyeballs to the television while she clears hurdles in a tiny track uniform. Not to mention, she posed nude for ESPN’s “Bodies We Want” issue in 2009. I’d be annoyed by that kind of attention-grabbing if I were her teammate, but this shouldn’t determine her credibility as an athlete. She’s the real thing.
Lolo might be just what the American viewer wants to see in the Olympics, but I’d hope this wouldn’t really sway the selection committee to dismiss a better athlete. The selection committee wants the candidate that has the best chance of bringing home some hardware, right? I can see both sides to this debacle, but I do think this controversy is dismissing the fact that Lolo has some serious talent, and not just anyone could do what she does. As LoLo has affirmed, her best chance at putting this whole debate to rest is by kicking ass, taking names and winning a medal.
One thing I always have–and always will–love about the sport of running is that this BS never happens. Not politics, of course, there’s certainly plenty of that. I mean subjectivity isn’t a component. It’s you against the clock. The end. After sitting on the volleyball and basketball benches for years, I think this is the final component that pushed me to the track. I could prove myself without proving to be a ‘favorite’ of the coach or having my mom bring brownies to the games.
What is your view on the backlash that Lolo has been receiving? Aren’t we lucky that this really can’t happen in our sport of running?