Lolo Jones

Lolo Jones ends track season for bobsled, set for Twitter date

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How serious is Lolo Jones about bobsled?

She’s cutting her track season short to return to training for the Sochi Olympics.

Jones completed her abbreviated 100-meter hurdles campaign at the Diamond League meet in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Thursday, finishing third in 12.60 seconds as Americans swept the podium.

The two-time Olympian concluded her season as the fourth-fastest woman in the hurdles this year.

The 4×100 did not go well. Jones, running the leadoff leg, had a botched handoff that disqualified the Americans. Jones was not going to run at the world championships in Moscow, having placed fifth in the hurdles at nationals, where the top three earned worlds berths.

“I want to run more races, I was (scheduled) in more races, but I had to pull out of the last five because I talked to the bobsled coach after the USAs (nationals in Des Moines, Iowa), and he wanted me like the day after USAs, but I had obligations and I had to fill out my commitments,” Jones said in a video interview with Flotrack. “Bobsled I go.”

Jones said she’s donating her prize money from Lausanne to bobsled and skeleton teammates Jazmine Fenlator and Katie Uhlaender, which is $4,000 according to the Diamond League payouts. It comes off her controversial Vine video making light of a $741.84 bobsled paycheck last month and a USA Today story this week detailing the financial struggles of short-track speedskater Emily Scott.

“It’s just a shame because I really feel like I would have had a (personal best) this season had I stuck out the season,” Jones said. “I’m kind of sad about that, that I have to end so early. But, who knows, maybe I’ll have a gap in bobsled and I can convince the coach to let me come back over and run. But right now he wants to put the weight on me.”

What are Jones’ chances of making the Sochi Olympic team? Her first season on the ice as a push athlete was productive. She won a worlds gold as part of the mixed sliding team event and one silver medal in a World Cup race.

The U.S. sent three women’s bobsled teams to the Vancouver Olympics in 2010 and is likely to qualify three teams for Sochi. Jones was the No. 4 American push athlete last season, making the world championships roster but not among the three push athletes chosen for the two-woman event. Conceivably, she must pass one of Katie Eberling, Aja Evans or Emily Azevedo in the pecking order (and not get passed herself by somebody else) before the teams are named early in 2014.

“It’s funny, I just started off as like a distraction from track,” Jones told Flotrack about bobsledding. “I was like, ‘I’m not committing to anything. I just want to go out there and see if I like it.’ From there, I love it. The best part is putting on weight. Today, I’m going to go back to the hotel and eat a whole bunch of chocolate and double cheeseburgers.”

It also appears Jones will have to squeeze in at least one date before Sochi. Bubby Lyles, reportedly a journalism student at Georgia State in Atlanta, got Jones to agree to a date with him if he got 150,000 retweets. Lyles surpassed 150,000 this week.

https://twitter.com/harrylylesjr/status/347759212274794496

Told he was close to 150,000 by Flotrack, Jones responded by saying, “Oh, really? Are you serious?”

“Good for him,” Jones said. “I’ll go on a date with him.”

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Lindsey Vonn sets date for proposal to enter men’s race

ALTENMARKT/ZAUCHENSEE, AUSTRIA - JANUARY 15: Lindsey Vonn of USA celebrates during the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Women's Downhill on January 15, 2017 in Altenmarkt/Zauchensee, Austria (Photo by Christophe Pallot/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)
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The U.S. Ski Team plans to submit a proposal in the spring for Lindsey Vonn to be able to race against men in November 2018, according to the Denver Post.

“I know I’m not going to win, but I would like to at least have the opportunity to try,” Vonn said, according to the newspaper. “I think I’ve won enough World Cups where I should have enough respect within the industry to be able to have that opportunity.”

Vonn’s idea is to race in Lake Louise, Canada, an annual late fall stop on both the men’s and women’s World Cup schedules. The men generally race in Lake Louise one week before the women do.

Vonn’s greatest success has come at Lake Louise, with 18 victories in 41 downhill and super-G starts dating to 2001.

Vonn previously requested in 2012 to be able to race against men in Lake Louise, but that was denied by the International Ski Federation (FIS). The federation said then “that one gender is not entitled to participate in races of the other.”

It doesn’t look like the federation’s stance has changed.

“You can set up a day where a female racer can compete against men racers, just as a show, but it has nothing to do with competition,” FIS women’s race director Atle Skaardal said, according to the Denver Post. “I don’t see that it’s going to change in the next years — no driving forces to urge a change like that. This is something the teams could do also in training. But why would you want to have a competition in this direction?

“I just don’t see the interest. For me it’s a meaningless comparison. It doesn’t matter if she’s one second behind or a half-second ahead. We compete female against female and men against men. To me it doesn’t matter if one gender is faster or slower. It doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, just because it’s of interest to one racer. I haven’t heard of any other sport being dragged into this kind of position.”

Vonn raced for the first time in 322 days on Sunday, finishing 13th in a World Cup downhill in Austria. It was actually an encouraging result, as Vonn said she wasn’t skiing to her limit in her first race back.

Her upcoming goals are to compete in the 2018 Olympics, after missing Sochi due to injury, and earn 11 more World Cup wins to break Ingemar Stenmark‘s career record of 86 victories. She can overtake Stenmark next season if she stays healthy and continues to win at her usual pace.

Vonn said in the spring that she would postpone retirement by one year and compete in the 2018-19 season if it meant being able to race the men.

But Skaardal’s comments suggest that won’t be possible.

“It’s definitely frustrating to hear that he said that, because I respect Atle very much,” Vonn said, according to the Denver Post. “He does a great job on the World Cup, and he is a former racer, so he understands. It’s disappointing to hear he doesn’t support it. But maybe if we organize something and a plan is put in front of him, maybe he would change his mind. I think most of the men are supporting me.”

Vonn is expected to race this weekend in a downhill and super-G in Garmish-Partenkirchen, Germany, streamed live on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

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Wayne Gretzky compares Hayley Wickenheiser to NHL legend

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The greatest male hockey player of all time paid the greatest female player of all time quite the compliment at her retirement ceremony Saturday.

“You played with heart, desire, finesse, speed, skill,” Wayne Gretzky said to Hayley Wickenheiser. “The only other person, the greatest player to ever live, I think he would be happy if I said you were the female Gordie Howe. Congratulations.”

The Canadian legend Wickenheiser announced her retirement Friday, after six Olympics and four gold medals. On Saturday, she was honored before a Calgary Flames-Edmonton Oilers game. A highlight was a speech by Gretzky, who now works in the Oilers’ front office.

Wickenheiser’s first Olympics, Nagano 1998, marked the only Winter Games for Gretzky. Gretzky played in the first Olympics with NHL participation in Nagano, finishing fourth with Canada, and retired in 1999 without an Olympic medal.

“You’ve opened so many doors for so many young girls to be able to one day win a gold medal,” Gretzky said to Wickenheiser. “To me, that’s more important than anything.”

Wickenheiser then took the mic at center ice and reciprocated.

“A big part of why I play the game is because of this man standing right here, Wayne Gretzky,” she said, later adding, according to Canadian media, “In Salt Lake City [2002] when we won the gold medal, the first two people I saw when we stepped off the ice were Wayne and [former Oilers All-Star defenseman] Kevin [Lowe] standing in our dressing room cheering for us.”

As part of the Wickenheiser ceremony, a tribute video was played including messages from Canadian Olympian and Hall of Famer Mark Messier, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

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