- Associated Press - Thursday, October 25, 2012

Lolo Jones agreed to try bobsledding because she needed something to take her mind off the rigors of her Olympic track season.

Three weeks later, she’s got a spot on the national team.

Jones, a two-time Olympic hurdler, was one of 24 athletes selected to the U.S. bobsled team Thursday. She’s one of six women’s push athletes selected, a group that also includes Olympic sprinting gold medalist Tianna Madison.

“I just came out here and kind of needed to get away from track for a bit, kind of wanted to get some motivation,” Jones told The Associated Press. “I thought coming out here with the other girls that we could help each other, we could benefit from one another. I could help them with their speed and they could help me with my strength. And just being around them, hearing their goals gave me new goals and refreshed me.”

Jones was fourth at the London Games, the second time she’s gone to an Olympics and come home without a hurdles medal. She was the favorite for gold at Beijing in 2008, then hit the next-to-last hurdle and finished seventh.

She still plans to compete in hurdles at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Only now, a trip to the 2014 Sochi Games — in a bobsled — might come first.

“This is a breath of fresh air — cool, very cool, cold air,” Jones said.

Jones and Madison were among a small number of track athletes invited to Lake Placid for bobsled’s push championships this month by U.S. coach Todd Hays. He believed veteran Olympians would, if nothing else, help some of the team’s younger competitors and raise team morale.

But Hays also had another idea in mind — recruitment. Bobsled has long sought athletes from the track world, with their strength and explosiveness considered the perfect combination to get a sled going quickly down an icy chute.

Madison, who was part of a world-record-setting 4x100-meter relay Olympic win in London, and Jones fit what Hays was looking for. Neither had done any real training since the London Games, so the last three weeks have been hectic for Madison and Jones.

“Once they were revved up, things started clicking for both of us,” Jones said. “It kind of overwhelmed us quite quickly.”

Both bring star power. Jones brings an element of celebrity as well.

This summer in London, Jones competed amid criticism, even from some teammates, that she received more attention and endorsements than her accomplishments on the track warranted. One of the things she said attracted her to bobsledding was that, traditionally, it’s the pilot — not the push athlete — who gets virtually all the attention after races.

If that holds true, Jones might be thrilled.

“When I came here, I didn’t want any distractions,” Jones said.

Madison ran the opening leg of the gold-winning relay in London, one that smashed the record held by East Germany for 27 years.

Other women in the push-athlete mix are 2010 Olympian Emily Azevedo, world championship medalist Katie Eberling, Lake Placid start-record-holder Aja Evans and former Cal track athlete Cherrelle Garrett.

Three women’s pilots are on the roster: reigning world championships bronze medalist Elana Meyers will drive USA-1, Jamie Greubel will drive USA-2 and Jazmine Fenlator will be at the controls of USA-3. Coaches will likely determine next week which three push athletes work with the drivers for the first World Cup event of the season. Because that’s six women vying for three roles, there’s no guarantee that Jones or Madison would start on the World Cup circuit.

The men’s roster had few surprises. World and Olympic champion Steven Holcomb will drive USA-1, with Nick Cunningham in USA-2 and Cory Butner in USA-3.

Push athletes Steve Langton, Justin Olsen and Curt Tomasevicz helped the “Night Train” sled driven by Holcomb to the world title last year, and all are back this season. Coaches chose nine other men’s push athletes as well: Adam Clark, Johnny Quinn, Chuck Berkeley, Laszlo Vandracsek, Chris Fogt, Dallas Robinson, Jesse Beckom, Andreas Drbal and Nic Taylor.

The U.S. skeleton roster will be announced next week after team selection races end in Park City, Utah. World Cup racing for bobsled and skeleton opens in Lake Placid on Nov. 8.

“It was definitely a thrill,” Jones said. “This is definitely the first time I’ve made a team and I haven’t had to cross the finish line and look at the scoreboard.”

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