Lolo Jones, the former track and field star who is currently competing for the U.S. bobsled team in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, discussed her transition between summer and winter Olympics and her acceptance by her bobsled teammates in an interview with reporters on Monday.
Barely holding back tears, the 31-year-old Jones said her bobsled team "had my back," the Associated Press reported
"From the first week they accepted me, they embraced me, they lifted me up, and I think it was what I needed to not only be a bobsled athlete but return back to track with my head held high and proud of the things I have achieved in that sport," Jones said. "So I really am grateful for them. I'm almost about to cry because they really gave me a fresh start, for sure."
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The apparent embrace by her bobsled teammates is in stark contrast to her reception by members of the U.S. track and field team, some of whom apparently resented the media attention she received due to the fact that she had twice failed to win a hurdles medal in both the 2008 Beijing Games and 2012 London Olympics.
"I've even been thrown under the bus by my teammates in track and field," Jones added on Monday. "So to go into the training center and they barely knew me and they kind of just took me under their wing and were like, `No, you're one of us.'"
Jones' shift to bobsled hasn't been without some controversy.
Last June, Jones posted a video online in which she was seen griping about how little she earned
for training to compete on the U.S. bobsled team.
After receiving some backlash from former bobsled Olympic gold medalist Steven Holcomb, Jones clarified her remarks.
Additionally, there have been some who questioned the reasoning behind the U.S. Olympic team's decision to select Jones as one of three brakemen on the women's team, passing over experienced pushers as Emily Azevedo and Katie Eberling – both of whom openly aired their frustrations about not making the squad, the AP noted.
With her good looks, celebrity status, and nearly 380,000 Twitter followers, some detractors have speculated that the decision to select Jones over other, more experienced team members stemmed from a desire to capitalize on her popularity rather than her ability.
Not so says Lauryn Williams, a 30-year-old track and field star who like Jones made the transition to the Olympic games and will also be competing with the U.S. bobsled team.
"I've gotten to see her over the last six months, see how hard she's working toward this and she won't be outworked by anyone," Williams told reporters Monday. "She put in every effort and she's as deserving as everyone on this team. It was really tough to see the hurt on all sides, and without picking sides. What they did wasn't right, but at the same time, you know it was from a place of deep hurt."
Addressing her past failures in track and field and motivation to prove herself in Sochi, Jones said in the press conference, "I truly believe that your greatest failures or mishaps in life can have the best motivation for you to do something amazing."
"I've just kind of taken that stance and that's really why I feel like I'm here as a bobsled athlete. I'm not willing to give up," Jones added.
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