Lolo Jones was named to the U.S. Olympic bobsled team last week and now athletes that felt slighted by the decision are speaking out and accusing the selection committee of choosing the former track and field star as a marketing ploy.
Jones, 31, was named as a U.S. delegate to the 2014 Sochi Games on Jan. 19
along with five other women, but some think her spot should have gone to one of the many veteran bobsledders vying for a chance to compete.
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"It's hard for me to name one or two athletes that would completely agree with that decision [to select Jones]," veteran brakeman Curt Tomasevicz told USA Today Sports.
Two other competitors also shared their thoughts with USA Today.
"I should have been working harder on gaining Twitter followers than gaining muscle mass," Emily Azevedo, a U.S. bobsledder who was in the running for the spot, said in a dig at Jones' Twitter fame.
"I feel this year there was a certain agenda," said Katie Eberling, another contender who missed making the team. "It's no fault of my teammates. There's been a lot of inconsistencies and that makes you wonder what's going on. It's not right."
Jones was the track and field favorite to win gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics but she tripped over a hurdle during the 100-meter and ended up with a seventh-place finish. In London in 2012, she took fourth place in the 100-meter hurdles.
After the Beijing Games, Jones took up bobsledding in addition to her track and field events. She was named to the U.S. bobsled team in 2012 and took gold in the team event at the World Championship in 2013.
According to the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation's website, a committee of six people selects the members of the Olympic bobsled team, taking into consideration each athlete's overall season results, combine and national push championship results, and international experience.
"There is no doubt in my mind that people are disappointed that Katie and Emily did not make the team," Darrin Steele, the CEO of the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, told USA Today Sports. "But it's never about publicity or marketing. The best way to market the sport is by winning."
"We followed the procedure and I'll stand by that decision all day long," he said. "It was a really close call. The numbers were close. There's no question about it. That always makes it more difficult. The trending was going toward Lolo and she's a great athlete and at the end of the day that's who we think is a better brakeman for the Games. "
Jones addressed the selection controversy last week after the team was announced.
"It's more stressful," she told reporters. "There's months of criteria and races and it's the course of a season and as the season goes on you do gain bonds with those other girls so it's hard to celebrate when you know what they went through to achieve the same kind of dream you're going to achieve."
The Sochi Olympics kick off Feb. 6.
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