NORMAN — Lolo Jones “absolutely” earned her spot on the U.S. Olympic bobsled team, the federation’s top officer said Thursday night, insisting the selection committee relied only on data and results in making its picks.
U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation CEO Darrin Steele told The Associated Press that he even double-checked all the numbers that were pored over while deciding on the three push athletes for the women’s team that will compete in Sochi.
Steele said it was “incredibly close” between Jones, Emily Azevedo and Katie Eberling for what amounted to the final spot. The USBSF has gotten a number of complaints about Jones’ selection, mainly through emails and social media, though Steele remains convinced that the two-time Summer Olympic hurdler who is often a lightning rod for critics was the right pick.
“Nobody put any pressure on us,” Steele said. “We haven’t made a single deal based on Lolo Jones.”
Aja Evans, Lauryn Williams and Jones were the three push athletes picked for the women’s team. All are first-time Winter Olympians, though Williams is a veteran of the summer version and helped the U.S. win a gold medal in the 400-meter relay at the London Games in 2012.
The criticism, however, has almost exclusively stemmed from Jones’ selection. She tried out for the team in the fall of 2012, surprised many observers by actually making the roster, and helped the U.S. win a medal in her very first World Cup race.
“This is an emotional situation,” Steele said. “She brings a lot of baggage with her. I don’t see that side of her. I kind of respect that she’s not guarded. The reality is it’s easy to look for an excuse, especially when it’s close. I can see the logic when people don’t understand the sport. I’m a little disappointed with some of the people inside the sport who make the same statements.”