Guest post by Kate Voss
The road to Olympic victory is not an easy or painless journey. However, for some athletes who found defeat in one Olympic sport, including former track stars Lolo Jones and Lauryn Williams, an alternative route for Olympic success has been discovered: the 2014 U.S. Women’s Olympic bobsled team.
After both immersed themselves in track and field Olympic careers, totaling five Summer games between the two, both decided to make the switch into bobsled, and it seems their hard work and tough transition has paid off. It was recently announced on Jan. 19 that both women have been chosen to be a part of the U.S. women’s bobsled team for the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Jones describes representing Team USA in the bobsled race as, “The biggest honor I’ll ever have in my life…I’m overwhelmed with emotions.”
Both Jones and Williams had arduous journeys to the bobsled team. Lola Jones had a tough childhood; she grew up in the basement of a Salvation Army where her father taught her how to shoplift at a young age. Yet, she still pushed through her troublesome upbringing and qualified for the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008.
However, her former track career was one filled with heartbreak. While competing in the 2008 Summer Olympics, she led the 100-meter race up until the second-to-last hurdle, where she stumbled and finished in seventh place. Then, during the 2012 London Olympics, she finished fourth in the 100m hurdles, a tenth of a second away from winning a medal. It was after the London Olympics that she took up bobsled, after the U.S. bobsled team coach, Todd Hays, invited her to a one-day bobsled trial to boost the team’s morale. In order for Jones to compete, she had to put on 30 pounds of muscle in order to gain the power needed to be a push athlete for the bobsled team.
Lauryn Williams also had disappointments along the road to the US bobsled team. She won the Olympic silver for the 100m in 2004, competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and then won gold in the 4x100m relay in the 2012 London Olympics, but then was forced to retire from track and field in 2013 from a leg injury. It was after talking with her teammate, Lola Jones (who already had one season on the bobsled team under her belt) that Williams decided to make the transition into the Olympic sport of bobsleigh, a mere six months after believing she would have to retire from professional athletics altogether.
“I had no idea what was in store for me this season,” Williams said, “I just wanted to come in with positive energy and help out. This is the first time I’ve been a part of a true team sport, and there’s someone else counting on you. You can’t let that person down, and that’s what drives me. It’s very important to give everything I have whenever I’m on that start line.”
Jones and Williams are not the only athletes to switch gears from one sport to another, but they are part of a select group. Only eight other American athletes in Olympic history have ever competed in both the Summer and Winter Games. Some athletes take on another sport because they can’t get enough of the Olympic experience, while others are introduced after being deterred from a summer game. Bobsled teammate Elana Meyers had previously tried out for the US Olympic softball team in 2004 and after a disappointing failure joined the bobsled team to offer her power and determination.
For both Jones and Williams, the U.S. Olympic bobsled team provided an outlet for success, and an opportunity to lift them up from former Olympic defeats. In an interview, Jones discussed how bobsled really lifted her spirit: “They embraced me at one of the lowest points in my life. I was just coming off the Summer Games and I was pretty depressed and they lifted me up and day by day they encouraged me to never give up on this Olympic dream.”
The two athletes are true inspirations for aspiring and current athletes. They prove that no matter what life or the sports world throws your way, including defeat and injury, if you have passion you can push through, adapt, and find success.
The games will be streamable on NBC, but most games will need a cable or satellite TV credentials. You can also catch up on bobsleigh coverage leading up to the Games through Direct TV’s current offer of a free trial of the Universal Sports channel. Here are some other ways you can view the Winter Olympics, starting on Feb. 7.
Image credit: CBS Sports