Winter Olympics: Tearful Lolo finds comfort with US 'wolf pack'
SOCHI, Russia (AFP) - Former US Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones wept on Monday as she recalled the bitter, sniping campaign which greeted her Winter Games selection before hailing the "wolf pack" mentality of her new bobsleigh team-mates.
The 31-year-old took up the sport only after the 2012 London Olympics and her nomination sparked widespread rumours that she was picked for her good looks and her high-profile Twitter account which has 377,000 followers.
"I was thrown under the bus so many times," said an emotional Jones. "But the bobsleigh team accepted me, lifted me up and comforted me.
"I got tired of the rumours. Even one of the girls who is an alternate with the team said that everything had been taken out of context.
"I was voted onto the team. I'd be happy if having Twitter followers got me to Rio for the 2016 Olympics but that is not the way it works."
Jones, who will be the brakewoman in the two-woman bobsleigh event, praised her new team-mates for their support in the wake of her disappointing performance at the London Olympics where she was fourth.
The two-time world indoor hurdles champion had also been seventh in Beijing in 2008 after clipping the final hurdle while leading the field.
"After London, I arrived at the Olympic training centre at Lake Placid. I was overweight and depressed. I had put too much into London and didn't know how to pick myself up.
"The girls didn't know me but Jaz (team-mate Jazmine Fenlator) really helped me. She joked, 'I thought you were a distance runner. Girl, did they photoshop your pictures.' I soon held my head high. It was a fresh start for me."
Jones has had to bulk up for Sochi with her role as a brakewoman to utilise her natural speed and sprinter's strength and poise to give the pilot that crucial, leading edge.
"It can take four years to become a driver of a bob. It's the same with hurdling. But you can come in as a sprinter after a year and that's the same as bob.
"Fast is fast and power is power."
The United States is only one of two nations to have qualified three teams for the event in Sochi and Jones is accompanied by another former track star in Lauryn Williams, the 100m silver medallist at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Williams too is a brakewoman as is Aja Evans, the athlete who describes the team as a "wolf pack" that "leaves nobody behind".
Elana Meyers, Jamie Greubel and Jazmine Fenlator are the three pilots.
Fenlator is determined to win gold for her mother Suzie who has Lupus, a potentially life-threatening terminal illness which attacks the body's immune system.
Her mother has suffered the disease for 30 years and underwent quadruple bypass surgery last year.
"My mom fights every day for her breath. I know life is precious," said the 28-year-old, who has financed her sports career through a succession of jobs including baby-sitting and cleaning toilets.
"This is the opportunity of a lifetime to compete at the Olympics."