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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Korea Olympic hockey coach takes high school job

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Sarah Murray, who coached the joint Korean Olympic women’s hockey team in PyeongChang, will coach the Owatonna High School girls team in her native Minnesota starting this fall.

Murray has not responded to a request for comment though the school on whether this means she is leaving the South Korean national team program.

Murray, 30, guided the joint Korean Olympic team to an 0-5 record. The tournament underdogs scored in three games and were within two goals of Switzerland.

Three weeks before the Olympics, the International Olympic Committee approved adding 12 North Koreans to the South Korean Olympic women’s hockey team, making it the first joint Korean team in any Olympic event.

Murray initially had mixed feelings.

“It’s exciting to be a part of something that’s so historic, to have two countries so divided come together through sports,” Murray said in January, according to Yonhap News Agency. “I think the story is great, and to be a part of it is important. But at the same time, it’s mixed feelings because it’s at the expense of, ‘We don’t get to play our full roster.’”

She expressed optimism after the Games.

“We have really enjoyed working with the North’s players and coaches, and we really do want to help them in the future,” Murray said, according to The Associated Press, adding that a possible “exchange game” was discussed to maintain the connection. “They want to get better, they want to keep learning from us and we want to help them. And there are things that we can learn from them, too.”

Murray won two NCAA titles as a player at Minnesota-Duluth. Her father, Andy Murray, spent 10 seasons coaching the Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues in the 2000s.

She replaces an Otawonna coach who stepped down to focus on the girls lacrosse program and spend more time with his family.

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Michael Phelps launches mental health campaign

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Michael Phelps was hanging at the pool on Tuesday.

No, he’s not planning another comeback.

He’s got a bigger goal to tackle.

Mental health.

After revealing the depths of his depression — and even thoughts of suicide after his second drunken-driving arrest — Phelps is hoping to make a difference for those who are dealing with similar issues.

The 23-time Olympic gold medalist announced a partnership with Talkspace, which provides online therapy, and said he considers it a higher calling than anything he ever did as a swimmer.

“Somebody told me yesterday about his daughter going through a very, very deep depression and not really wanting to be alive,” Phelps said in an interview with The Associated Press. “She read stories about me opening up. He told me how much that helped her. For me, that’s way bigger than ever winning gold medals. The chance to potentially save a life, to give that person an opportunity to grow and learn and help someone else, there’s nothing better in life.”

Despite his unprecedented success as an athlete, Phelps went through plenty of dark moments.

His first DUI arrest came when he was just 19, a few months after he won six gold medals at the 2004 Summer Olympics. He was briefly suspended after a picture emerged of him smoking from a marijuana pipe after his record eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Games. He struggled to get motivated heading into the 2012 Olympics.

But his low point came in 2014, after he abandoned retirement to compete in a fifth Olympics only to be arrested again for driving under the influence. He checked into an Arizona rehab clinic and finally realized just how much he was hurting — so much so, he wasn’t sure he wanted to go on living.

“I thought it would make things easier,” Phelps recalled. “I almost felt like it would be better for everybody if I wasn’t there. But the more I thought about it, I wanted to find a different route. I wanted to see if I could find some help. I wanted to see if I could get better.”

Phelps said he’s in a much better place these days. He’s happily married and living in suburban Phoenix with two small children, 2-year-old Boomer and 3-month-old Beckett. He’s satisfied with his career, saying there’s nothing left to accomplish at the pool.

But there are times that he struggles with depression and anxiety.

He figures it will be that way for the rest of his life.

“I still go through times that are very challenging. I do break down and maybe have a bad day, where I’m not in a good mental state,” Phelps said. “I understand that. It’s who I am. I guess that will always be something that’s a part of me.”

He hopes that his deal with Talkspace, which helps connect those in need with therapists through a variety on online conduits, will help to remove some of the stigma associated with mental health — especially for those who are reluctant to seek out help in person or may not have the financial means.

Phelps said mental health is especially important when suicide rates are on the rise and a rash of school shootings have rocked the United States.

“I feel like with all the issues we have in this world, this is something where I can truly make significant impact,” he said.

The 32-year-old Phelps has kept himself in good condition since Rio. He rides a bike nearly every day and still works out at the pool at least twice a week. When he stepped on the scales Monday, he weighed 192 pounds — 3 pounds less than he was at his last Olympics.

“Could I come back? Yes,” he said. “I think it would be even easier than it was in 2014 (when he officially ended his first attempt at retirement). I’m in better shape now than I was then.”

But, with those tantalizing words, Phelps quickly struck down any thought of returning to competitive swimming.

He simply doesn’t have any motivation to add to his record haul.

“Would I like to break a world record? Yeah, obviously,” Phelps said. “But I also know what I did to prepare for Rio. I thought I did a pretty damn good job of getting myself ready to go. I didn’t want any what-ifs 20 years down the road. Twenty years down the road, I won’t have that. I’ll be able to say I was happy with how I finished my career. I was happy to be able to have my family there, to have my first-born there to watch. I’ll have those memories forever.

“All good things must come to an end eventually. That was the best way to go out.”

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