Writer Selena Roberts questioned the selection of Lolo Jones to the Olympic bobsled team in an article for Sports On Earth this week.
The thesis of the article is that Jones didn’t deserve to make the Olympic bobsled team on her own merits. Roberts strongly implies that she only made the team because of NBC.
She also implies that Katie Eberling, who she calls “a humble bobsledder from Palos Hills, Illinois,” got screwed out of a place because of Jones and NBC.
“This is the two-straw love affair that NBC needed after losing Lindsey Vonn. Lolo is the replacement star, the sex appeal sub for the injured ski queen, a hot storyline to ride down bobsled’s serpentine track,” she writes.
Roberts doesn’t mention any actual bobsleigh results in her article to show that Jones is undeserving of the spot.
We dug into the stats this morning, and found that the selection of Jones over Eberling is actually pretty reasonable.
It’s really a matter of recent results — a cruel but sensible “what have you done for me lately” selection rationale.
Jones and Eberling are both brakemen — the athletes who push the bobsled as fast as they can before hopping in the sled and letting the pilot do most of the work. Their job is simple: push the sled as fast as possible.
If the Olympic were held last fall (or even last December), Eberling would be the clear choice.
She won silver in the World Championships last February. She was the picked as the 2013 Women’s Bobsled Athlete of the Year in August.
She also came in second in the U.S. push championships last summer, compared to Lolo’s fifth:
But all of that was last year. The Olympics are happening now.
Eberling has only competed in one women’s two-man bobsled World Cup race in the 2014 calender year — coming in 17th in St. Moritz. Her three medal performance in the 2013/14 season (all bronzes) all came in early December.
Going into the Olympics, Eberling would have competed once in the previously seven weeks.
Meanwhile, Jones is in the midst of her best season ever after getting the hang of the sport.
When you compare their 2013/14 World Cup stats in two-man bobsled races, they look incredibly similar:
We don’t know exactly why the USBSF picked Jones of Eberling. The selection process sounds admittedly ripe for shenanigans.
But if you just look at the stats, it’s not that controversial of a choice. It looks like they just wanted to more in-form athlete.
Sure, Eberling was the better bobsledder last August, but should you really use six-month old results rather than current results?
There isn’t some grand conspiracy in the idea that you should pick the athlete who’s in better form going into the Olympics. Even if you think they should have picked Eberling because recent results shouldn’t be weight too heavily, you have to acknowledge that it’s a close call.
It’s completely unfair to say Lolo Jones doesn’t deserve a spot in the Olympics. It’s misleading. It implies that she only gets what she has because of her fame.
In fact, she’s really good at bobsledding. She’s probably better than Katie Eberling right now. There’s no conspiracy.
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