Canadians Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse rallied over Team USA to defend their Olympic gold medal in women's bobsledding on Wednesday, but that wasn't the highlight of the event.
Rather, it was finally reading coverage that managed to avoid mentioning Lolo Jones's name even once.
The former American track star had dominated bobsledding story-lines thanks to her controversial selection to the team. She was recruited to try out in 2012 despite having no prior experience in the sport, a move most thought was more about marketing potential than athletic ability. That included Emily Azevedo, one of the women Jones beat out for a spot on the Olympic roster. Azevedo, who has more than a decade of experience in international bobsledding competition, told USA Today, "I should have been working harder on gaining Twitter followers than gaining muscle mass."
With 390,000 followers, Jones certainly has a vast social media presence, an attractive quality to marketers who don't really care about the nature of her tweets. From not-so-borderline racism to her paradoxically public piety, she's had her share of Twitter controversies -- however self-made they may be.
Jones reacted to the backlash with an intentionally exasperating attitude of, "Don't hate me because I'm popular," an acceptable notion in an American society addicted to celebrities, even (especially?) those who are famous for nothing. Apparently we're suffering from such a dearth of stars, sports or otherwise, that we feel the need to create them out of thin air. That's not an entirely fair characterization of Jones, whose personal back-story of overcoming poverty and family hardship is exactly the kind Olympic audiences eat right up, and who was a very accomplished hurdler years ago. She won gold at the World Indoor Championship in both 2008 and 2010, and was rightfully the heavy favorite entering the 2008 Summer Olympics.
But after she tripped on the penultimate hurdle in Beijing, finishing seventh, and followed that up with a disappointing fourth-place finish in London, it was time for Jones' name to slip out of headlines and make room for those members of Team USA who actually brought home the hardware. Instead, some opportunistic bobsledding officials thought it would be a good idea to capitalize on Jones' face and name, further detracting from another track star who actually had a chance to make history: Lauryn Williams.
Unlike Jones, Williams fully earned her spot despite her lack of bobsledding experience, winning a gold medal in the last World Cup event before the selection committee named the Olympic roster. In Tuesday's opening round, she set track records with her start times of 5.13 and 5.12 seconds. By winning the silver medal with Elana Meyers on Wednesday, Williams became the fifth Olympian to reach the podium in both the Summer and Winter games, having won gold and silver in sprinting. For reference, fellow Americans Jamie Greubel and Aja Evans captured the bronze, while Jones and driver Jazmine Fenlator finished 11th.
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