*Former hurdler Lolo Jones is again at the center of Olympics controversy – this time over her selection to the U.S. women’s bobsled team.
After Jones and pilot Jazmine Fenlator ended up in 11th place at the halfway point of the women’s bobsled competition Tuesday, Jones also ended up on the receiving end of some criticism tweeted from former U.S. Olympian Chuck Berkeley.
Berkeley competed in the 2010 Games in Vancouver but did not make the U.S. team for Sochi. In an interview with The Associated Press, he called the U.S. selection process for the Sochi Games “corrupt” and questioned why Jones received a spot on the women’s roster.
Berkeley said the teams for Sochi were chosen based largely on an athlete’s popularity. He added that some sliders were favored over others with better credentials and that the USA-3 women’s sled Jones is pushing at the Olympics would fare better with someone else in her spot.
“I get that people want to latch on to a media sensation and run wild,” Berkeley told the AP, referring to Jones. “But it comes down to this: There are athletes who deserve to be there who are not there, on the women’s and the men’s sides. And you have to ask yourself why is that the case. What is wrong with the selection process? Why is it flawed? Why is it corrupt?”
While Berkeley did not mention Jones by name in his tweet, the jab toward the former hurdler — always a lightning rod for critics — was thinly veiled at best.
“From my personal experience with Lolo, she’s had a very bad attitude,” Berkeley said.
He did clarify to the AP that he thinks the attention the two-time Summer Olympian has brought bobsledding is a good thing.
Jones was one of three women chosen from a six-woman pool for the push athlete spots, and Steele said at the time that it was “incredibly close” among Jones, Eberling and Emily Azevedo for what amounted to the final spot.
Steele told the AP at the time that the selection committee relied only on data and results in making its picks, and that Jones “absolutely” earned her spot on the team.
“The men’s and women’s teams, we kept our distance from each other this year because of Lolo Jones,” Berkeley said in the interview hours after his initial tweets. “For no other reason. We like everybody else. It was because of Lolo Jones.”
Jones and Fenlator were 11th after Tuesday’s first two runs of the women’s bobsled event. They had the fifth-fastest average push times in the field on the opening night, and the other two U.S. sleds were in the gold- and bronze-medal positions at the midway point of the competition.
After entering the 100-meter hurdles final in Beijing as the gold-medal favorite, Jones clipped the ninth of 10 hurdles and did not medal. She set her sights on a podium finish in London. But in heartbreaking fashion, Jones finished one-10th of a second out of medal position in the 100-meter final.
She received a lot of negative attention for much the same reason her place on the bobsled team stirred controversy: Some criticized the attention Jones received for finishing fourth and wondered whether fame meant more to her than athletic success.