Lolo Jones

Lolo Jones one step closer to Olympics; U.S. Bobsled National Team named

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Lolo Jones is on the path to the Sochi Olympics, but so are five other bobsled push athletes seeking one of a likely three spots on the U.S. Olympic Team.

Jones, the two-time Olympic hurdler, was named to the U.S. Bobsled National Team on Saturday following the final selection race in Park City, Utah, on Friday night.

Jones, 31, was expected to be named to the national team as she’s among the top three or four contenders to make the Sochi Olympics. The national team members will compete on the World Cup circuit, beginning Nov. 30 in Calgary, to earn the U.S. spots in Sochi.

The U.S. Olympic Team is expected to be named in mid-to-late January.

Lolo Jones wants to try another Winter Olympic sport

“Last year I was just soaking everything in,” Jones said, according to The Associated Press. “It was an adventure, it was fun, it was nothing really on the line for me. It was just kind of an escape and there were no expectations. So now coming into my second year, they expect me to be more knowledgeable and more of a leader.”

Joining Jones on the national team are three drivers — 2010 Olympic bronze medalist Elana MeyersJamie Greubel and Jazmine Fenlator — and five push athletes — three-time Olympic sprinter Lauryn WilliamsAja EvansKatie EberlingEmily Azevedo and Army soldier-athlete Kristi Koplin.

Meyers, Greubel and Fenlator were also the top three U.S. drivers last season and are favorites to make up the U.S. Olympic Team, should the U.S. qualify three two-woman sleds for Sochi.

“Jazmine, Elana and I all started driving around the same time so we have that kind of friendly rivalry and I think it works really well for us,” Greubel said, according to the AP. “We work together and shake each other’s hands at the end of the day, no matter who’s on top. I really respect the other girls that are drivers on the team. They definitely help push me to be a better athlete.”

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Evans and Eberling are considered favorites to make the Olympic team as push athletes. Azevedo and Jones were also on the national team last year and may be battling for that third and final spot.

A key will be which push athletes are paired with the three drivers at World Cup events.

“This is the fastest and most prepared group of athletes we’ve ever seen,” Darrin Steele, U.S. Bobsled & Skeleton Federation CEO, said in a press release. “It was difficult to narrow the women’s push field to six, and it will be even more challenging to select the top three for the Olympic team in a few months. The hard work and dedication has paid off and I couldn’t be more proud of all these athletes.”

The men’s bobsled national team, led by 2010 Olympic champion Steve Holcomb, is expected to be announced on Sunday morning.

Video: The art of bobsledding

Claressa Shields congratulated by famous boxing actor (video)

Claressa Shields
Getty Images
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Claressa Shields may just be the most dominant female athlete on the planet. The Flint, Mich., native is now a two-time Olympic boxing champion with a 77-1 record and a four-year unbeaten streak.

Actor Mark Wahlberg, who played boxer Micky Ward in the 2010 film “The Fighter,” took notice.

He taped a video that Shields watched before a celebration in her hometown Thursday, according to the Flint Journal.

“You are the true definition of a champion,” Wahlberg said. “You continue to inspire so many people, not only in Flint, but all over the world. I’m so proud of you. Your performance was amazing. God bless you. I look forward to seeing you, and I look forward to doing lots of things with you.”

Now Shields must decide whether to turn professional, which would end her Olympic career.

“Professional women’s boxing is not nowhere near on the same attention level as the Olympics are,” the 21-year-old Shields said, according to the Flint Journal. “I get way more attention than any female boxer who is professional right now with me being an amateur.

“So the goal is to go professional but still have that same attention and same mainstream. Hopefully, if they have the rule changed that the women professionals can come back and fight the Olympics, I would go professional to fight on TV and make a bunch of money but then come back and defend my two gold medals in 2020.”

MORE: Shields becomes first U.S. fighter to win back-to-back golds

Russian Olympic medalists gifts include racehorse

Abdulrashid Sadulaev
AP
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MOSCOW (AP) — Luxury cars, apartments, even a racehorse — being an Olympic medalist in Russia can come with great material rewards but also controversy.

Under President Vladimir Putin, it’s become a tradition for Russia’s Olympic heroes to be showered with large cash sums and sometimes unwanted gifts.

On Friday, less than 24 hours after dozens of medalists were presented with BMW cars at the Kremlin by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, an advertisement appeared online offering one of them for sale, with photographs showing the car still covered in stickers celebrating Russia’s medal haul in Rio.

The advertisement offering the BMW X6 for 4.67 million rubles ($72,000) was anonymous and quickly withdrawn. It couldn’t be independently verified by The Associated Press, though Russian agency R-Sport claimed the seller was a Russian medalist who thought the car was too big and unwieldy.

Figure skater Maxim Trankov, who received a Mercedes-Benz SUV for his gold medal in 2014, said few Olympians could afford to own such cars.

“Has no one thought that these gift cars are not only liable for the tax on luxury items, but also aren’t cheap to run and earnings can’t cover it?” he wrote on Twitter. “I’d sell mine too if it came to it … Or does everyone think all sports pay as well as soccer, hockey or tennis?”

Gymnast Seda Tutkhalyan said she wouldn’t be able to drive her new BMW because at 17 years of age she was too young to have a license.

While online commenters mostly supported an athlete’s right to sell expensive Olympic gifts, many were critical of the government for a display of conspicuous consumption at the Kremlin at a time when Russia’s pension and healthcare systems are under financial strain.

It’s not fully clear how much the prizes have cost the Russian government.

State TV channel Rossiya 24 reported that the fleet of BMWs was provided by the Olympians’ Support Fund, which is backed by a group of Russia’s richest men, but that the accompanying cash prizes of tens of thousands of dollars per medalist came in part from the federal budget.

More awards are on offer from regional governments, many of which made public displays of generosity despite financial troubles of their own.

The Caucasus region of North Ossetia last month promised a free apartment for any medalists from the area, though it isn’t clear if this has happened yet.

In another grand gesture, the head of the restive Dagestan region gave Olympic wrestling champion Abdulrashid Sadulaev 6 million rubles ($93,000) in cash and a racehorse at a lavish welcoming ceremony featured on local TV.

Still, all may not be well for Sadulaev, who’s nicknamed the “Russian Tank” for his habit of crushing opponents on the wrestling mat. He’s already facing an allegation from a Moscow radio presenter of reckless driving in his eye-catching BMW.

MORE: Putin slams Russia’s Paralympic ban