Lolo Jones makes US bobsled team, but expect drama ahead

Lolo Jones, the US Olympic hurdler, has made the cut for this season's US bobsled team. She's not assured a place in the Sochi Olympics, and bobsled politics can be controversial.

Rick Bowmer/AP
American bobsled team Jazmine Fenlator (r.) and Lolo Jones look up after racing in the United States women's bobsled team trials Friday in Park City, Utah. Fenlator and Jones came in third place.

Lolo Jones, the hurdler whose pinup looks inspired as much buzz as her running at the 2010 London Summer Olympics, has made this season's US women's bobsled team, officials announced Saturday. She'll be a brakeman for one of the USA's three two-woman sleds, and she is eligible to make the team for the Sochi Olympics in February.

Jones is bidding to become one of only a handful of American Olympians to compete in the Summer and Winter Games. But the path onto the US Olympic bobsled team is not always one without controversy.

In bobsledding, where the brakeman is largely there to improve push times at the start of the race, the forever-recurring question is: Do you choose the woman with the best push times or the one who has the best rapport with her pilot?

Jones, it would seem, might be hoping to make the team based on her athleticism. She is an elite hurdler (even if she didn't medal in London), and her power and build seem to make her a perfect brakeman.

But some American pilots have questioned whether the US it too obsessed with simply finding the biggest, baddest beast available, making the brakeman's seat feel like a revolving door.

"Crew familiarity is something that has always escaped USA Bobsled," said pilot Steven Holcomb, and Olympic gold medalist, at a media summit earlier this month.

Someone might have better measureables – push times, sprint speeds, etc. – but on the track the team has to be seamless unit, and that comes only from familiarity and experience, Holcomb suggested.

"You go to war with these guys," he said. "Any sort of hesitation can cost a medal."

Elana Myers, a medal favorite for Sochi and driver of the USA-1 sled, agrees that a pilot and brakeman need to be on the same page.

"A great brakeman knows what I need before I need it," she said at the media summit. "Sometimes it is difficult."

She has that connection with veterans Aja Evans and Katie Eberling, she said. But as a former brakeman herself, she understands that new brakemen need an opportunity to break through.

"As a brakeman, you want that opportunity."

Jones will have this season on the World Cup circuit to convince the coaches – and the pilots – that she deserves a place in Sochi.

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