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Lolo Jones: Still chasing elusive first medal, she puts her critics, desires on ice

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

SB Nation 2014 Olympics Preview

Go ahead, say whatever you want about Lolo Jones; her many critics often do. They say she's more style than substance. That she craves the limelight more than anything. That she only garners sponsorships because she's a pretty face. That she's a choke. None of it bothers her anymore.

That's because the 31-year-old, two-time Summer Olympian, who infamously came within one felled hurdle of the gold medal in Beijing in 2008 and then finished just off the podium in fourth place in London in 2012, has done it. She's successfully made the transition to bobsled for the upcoming Winter Games.

"I could care less now what people think."

"I could care less now what people think," Jones said late last year before the start of the bobsled World Cup season and Olympic qualification process. "It's just awesome the fact that I can tell people that I had two times where I was so close to a medal, and instead of give up, I fought harder. I mean, I think I've already won. I looked up how many people have gone to a Summer and Winter Olympic Games, and it's way less than people who have a bronze, silver and gold, for sure."

Indeed, by stamping her ticket as a bobsled push athlete for Sochi, along with fellow track star Lauryn Williams, the two become the co-ninth American athletes ever to compete in both versions of the foremost international competition. That doesn't mean Jones, despite little more than a year of experience in the sport, is satisfied with claiming one of only three highly coveted spots on the team. She's still focused on securing that oh-so-elusive medal she desperately desires.

"I think everybody's goal is to go to the Olympics and get a medal," she said. "So I don't think the fact that I'm a rookie in the sport means that I'm like, 'OK, well, I'll be happy with eighth place.' You always want to be on the podium."

The winter sport isn't just some farce in which Jones got involved to land back at the Olympics, however. For example, she has embraced the new challenge so fully that she's gained nearly 30 pounds of quality bulk to reach her goal weight of 162 in order to make pushing the upwards of 400-pound two-person sled even more manageable. Following another disappointing Summer Games, bobsled didn't necessarily need Jones as much as Jones, she admits, needed bobsled.

"I get motivations from, you know, failures, victories, all along the way," Jones said. "But there's been times where people obviously motivate me. I remember when I first went to bobsled, [the coaches] each told me their story of how they were an Olympic athlete and how they persevered. They were able to kind of share their stories and kind of lift me up after the London Olympics, right when I needed it."

That, of course, is not to say Jones has at all given up on her first athletic passion. And while track, specifically her specialty of hurdles, remains her chief priority, until she begins to slim back down and returns to warm weather running following the Winter Games, she is completely invested and focused on bobsled.

Shortly after being named to the squad for Sochi toward the end of January, Jones -- now arguably the face of the American female Olympians with the absence of Lindsey Vonn this cycle -- took to social media and fired off a note of introspection, spelling out just how important bobsled has been to her and her life's goals.

"It didn't make sense in '08 or '12, but who would have thought those mishaps would put me on the path to be a Winter Olympian," she wrote. "Bobsled was my fresh start. Bobsled humbled me. Bobsled made me stronger. Bobsled made me hungry. Bobsled made me rely on faith. Bobsled gave me hope. I am honored and excited to say I am on the 2014 Winter Olympic Team. I push a bobsled but bobsled pushed me to never give up on my dreams."

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