Sporting hero Lolo Jones should be celebrated for her sojourn in Sochi

Having established herself as one of America’s sporting sweethearts, Lolo Jones captured the imagination of sports fans at the London 2012 Summer Games. Despite a heartbreaking finish at London, Jones put on a brave face in spite of unfair criticism by the media. This was worsened by the unfair attack by some of her track teammates who stated her attention was not always in line with her track accomplishments.

Image by Associated Press

Image by Associated Press

With a legion of fans that still admire Jones, it is exciting that her sporting journey has found a new path. Although Jones still has plans to compete at the Rio 2016 Summer Games, she has put the indoor track season on hold for an opportunity to compete in the bobsled.

The decision to compete in the event has displayed a remarkable display of character that shows a tremendous inner strength and determination on the part of Jones. The world-class athlete may have the rare opportunity to compete in the Summer and Winter Games (reminiscent of female sporting legends such as Cindy Klassen and Clara Hughes). Her involvement in the bobsled competition has also helped grown more interest in the sport.

Todd Hays, the US women’s bobsled coach, was the architect behind this unique concept. It was his decision to invite Jones, Tianna Madison, part of the 4 x 100 meter relay team at London, and Hyleas Fountain to the bobsled push championships.

Image by Associated Press

Image by Associated Press

Believing that it would help raise morale among bobsledders, Hays also had the foresight to believe that track athletes had the necessary speed and strength to push the sleds. Other celebrated athletes in the mix included Emily Azevedo, Katie Eberling and Cherrelle Garrett.

As a world class athlete, Jones embodies the spirit of dedication, discipline and the drive to be the world’s finest competitor. While bobsled should be a pleasant distraction from track that helps to provide Jones with new goals, along with the rejuvenation of her athletic spirit, there are the cynics who questioned this decision.

For those who doubted Jones ability to compete in the bobsled, she made her mark at a competition in St. Moritz, Switzerland. As part the US team that competed in a combined bobsled and skeleton event, she contributed to a gold medal victory.

Serving as the brakewoman for Elana Meyers in the women’s bobsled portion, the team registered the third-best time of the day in the event. It was a tremendous milestone for Jones as it complements the world titles she grabbed in 2008 and 2010 in the indoor 60-meter hurdles.

Despite such success, Jones has had the added distraction of continuously being under a microscope. Sadly, there will always be cynics and haters and it is an unfair yet obligatory aspect of being a world famous athlete. The opportunity to compete at Sochi should mark a remarkable effort in US women’s sporting history, yet Jones’ celebrity status occasionally makes her an unfair target.

Allegations of having been involved in an altercation with the stepdaughter of U.S. bobsled legend Tony Carlino were harsh. The incident was believed to have taken place at Lake Placid, in advance of the National Bobsled Push Championships in Calgary. While eyewitnesses confirmed that Carlino was “visibly intoxicated” and “verbally confronted” Jones, there were some who tried to put Jones in the wrong by stating the incident was covered up.

TAO/WIREIMAGE FOR BUDWEISER

TAO/WIREIMAGE FOR BUDWEISER

A more pleasant event also made national news for Jones. With Jones being one of the most popular athletes on social media, her date with Georgia college student Bubby Lyles made national news. She had agreed to the date on one unique condition; if Lyles got obtain over 150,000 retweets, he would earn his date. Surprisingly, it only took him two weeks to hit the magical mark.

As a side note, there is another pleasant fact about Jones’ sojourn for gold at Sochi. The Topps trading card company (famous for their baseball cards) has produced sports cards of the US Olympic Team. The first set was released to commemorate the US team that competed at the 2012 London Games. In following the success of that release, a new set recognizing the US team competing at Sochi 2014 is scheduled to be released in November 2013. The exciting fact is that Jones is the only athlete to have been featured on a trading card in both sets.

Trading card from the 2012 Topps trading card set recognizing athletes from the Summer Games

Trading card from the 2012 Topps trading card set recognizing athletes from the Summer Games

Heading into Sochi, she represents a unique underdog story as Olympic gold has eluded her storied career. While the Games always brings about strong feelings of national pride, Jones deserves support and not criticism. Regardless of the outcome in Sochi, Jones has shown that she is an admirable, courageous, strong woman who deserves to be considered as a role model. In the hearts and minds of her loyal fans, she will always be a champion.

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