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Sandy Caligiore, Special to USA TODAY SportsLAKE PLACID, N.Y. — Lolo Jones’ future as a bobsledder hangs in the balance Thursday morning as a committee selects the push athletes for the U.S. men’s and women’s bobsled teams.
A total of 16 competitors, including the 2008 and 2012 Olympic hurdler, are vying for six slots in a strong group of track and field athletes.
“Whether or not Lolo will be one of them is yet to be determined,” team spokesperson Amanda Bird said. “We have a stacked pool of athletes to choose from, so the selection committee will have a tough decision ahead.”
The pushers will be evaluated on a combine test and results from the summer push championship and team selection races, which ended Wednesday night. The committee will also take the past year’s results into consideration as well as input from coaches and drivers.
Since the days of track stars Herschel Walker, Willie Davenport and Willie Gault, USA bobsled officials have welcomed summer athletes to the speedy winter sport.
“Ultimately we will put the best team on the ice,” said Darrin Steele, CEO of the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, of the selection process for the men’s and women’s teams. “These will be tough calls. We have great veterans coming back, challenged by some impressive rookies that show lots of promise. This is as deep as we’ve ever been. We want to maximise our potential at the Olympic Games and that’s the spirit in which we make these decisions.”
Jones is a two-time world indoor champion who has broken world indoor and U.S. records on the track. She was the favourite heading into the 2008 Beijing Olympics before clipping the penultimate hurdle and dropping to seventh. She finished an agonizing fourth at this summer’s London Games.
The 30-year-old who competed at LSU was among those recruited by women’s bobsled coach and 2002 Olympic silver medalist Todd Hays. Jones, who grew up in Des Moines, started in the sport just last month and finished seventh in the summer push championships Oct. 5.
But with driver Jazmine Fenlator, of Wayne, N.J., piloting the duo down the twisting, mile long chute on Mount Van Hoevenberg on Saturday night, Jones finished second and finds herself in contention for a spot on the national team.
Two women’s push positions appear to be secure.
It stands to reason that Aja Evans, of Chicago, who won the summer push event and now holds the Lake Placid start record, will secure one of the team spots. Evans teamed with pilot Jamie Greubel, of Newtown, Penn., and set the push mark en route to winning the first qualifying race Saturday night. The twosome backed that up with another victory Wednesday.
Jones did not race Wednesday as she wasn’t required to do so after competing Saturday.
The powerful Evans, a five-time NCAA All America and three-time Big 10 champion at Illinois, is also a neophyte. She had never been in a bobsled until the Lake Placid course opened earlier this month.
Second-year push athlete Katie Eberling, of Palos Hills, Ill., had a bye onto the national team after last year’s World Cup and Europa Cup performances. She won a bronze medal with driver Elana Meyers, of Douglasville, Ga., at the 2012 world championships on this track.
Emily Azevedo, of Chico, Calif.; Cherrelle Garrett, of Hayward, Calif.; Hyleas Fountain, Columbus, Ga.; and Tianna Madison, of Elyria, Ohio â€” all from the world of track and field – will also be considered.
Jones’ popularity has generated attention for herself and the athletes in her new sport. If Thursday’s verdict falls her way, she will be in Lake Placid for the start of the World Cup season Nov.8-10.
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