Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones was one of 24 athletes named to the U.S. bobsled team Thursday, meaning it’s possible that she could qualify for the 2014 Sochi Winter Games and achieve the rare feat of becoming both a summer and winter Olympian.
Jones’ selection is part of an ongoing push by U.S. bobsled officials to recruit track and field athletes, and it will no doubt bring plenty of attention to the under-the-radar sport, as Jones is one of the most popular Olympic athletes in the U.S. today.
Some argue her popularity is more for her life off the track than on. Indeed, most of the headlines dealing with U.S. bobsledding today talk about Jones and not about Olympic gold medalist sprinter Tianna Madison, who also made the team.
Jones’ good looks, prolific Tweeting, and willingness to talk openly about her life, including her ongoing quest to remain a virgin until marriage and her upbringing in abject poverty in Iowa, have made her a media darling in recent years.
Jones first began receiving attention in 2008, when she seemingly came out of nowhere to win the U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials in the 100M hurdles and was the favorite for gold going into the Beijing Olympics. She placed seventh in the final after leading for most of the race, stumbling on the penultimate hurdle.
Jones struggled with injury for several years after 2008 and barely qualified for the 2012 London Olympics by finishing third at the Olympic Trials. She managed to finish fourth in the 100M hurdles at the Olympics, a feat that was quite remarkable considering she had spinal surgery only a year earlier. Nevertheless, she was the subject of a scathing New York Times article by Jere Longman after the finish that claimed that Jones received media attention because of her “exotic beauty” and “a sad and cynical marketing campaign” and not because of her legitimate accolades.
The article caused Jones to burst into tears on the Today Show, where she defended herself by saying, “They didn’t even do their research, calling me the Anna Kournikova of track. I have the American record. I am the American record holder indoors; I have two world indoor titles. Just because I don’t boast about these things, I don’t think I should be ripped apart by media. I laid it out there, fought hard for my country and it’s just a shame that I have to deal with so much backlash when I’m already so brokenhearted as it is.”
She most recently made headlines for her unwittingly insensitive tweet to paralyzed ex-football player Eric Legrand.
Perhaps Jones’ bobsled victory will be beginning of a new era for her, one where she receives headlines for all the right reasons.
Image via WikiCommons