Lolo Jones
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Lolo Jones makes brief bobsled return, may come back later

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Lolo Jones pushed a sled in competition for the first time since the Sochi Olympics on Friday and, though she is not expected to compete this bobsled World Cup season, has not ruled out returning to the winter sport after the Rio 2016 Summer Games.

In June, Jones said she was “very valuable” to U.S. Bobsled because of a rule change reducing the maximum combined weight for a two-woman bobsled and crews by 66 pounds, a change that will phase in over the next two seasons, according to U.S. Bobsled.

Jones’ track and field weight is about 30 pounds lighter than her bobsled weight, so she would not have to gain as much weight this time switching back to bobsled after trying to make her third Summer Olympic team next year. Or not gain any weight at all.

“My goal is longevity, and I’ll be in a position to help the team down the line when the new rule is in place,” Jones said, according to a press release. “I’ll be honest, it’s tough pushing a bobsled at the weight I’m at now, which is a lot lighter than I was in Sochi, but I’ll be able to adjust.”

On Friday, Jones finished third in the U.S. Bobsled Push Championships in Lake Placid, N.Y., where she totaled 9.58 seconds over two pushes and was .05 behind winner Lauren Gibbs. She did so after one day of push track training.

“My focus is on the Rio Olympics, and oddly enough training for a winter sport helps compliment that perfectly,” Jones said, according to the press release.

Olympic medalists Elana Meyers Taylor and Steven Holcomb won the national push titles for drivers and are expected to compete in bobsled this season, unlike Jones.

Jones finished 11th at the Sochi Olympics, becoming one of 10 Americans to compete in both the Summer and Winter Olympics.

She will turn 34 years old on the day of the Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony. Her chances of making the U.S. Olympic team may be tougher in 2016 than 2018, given she was 10th fastest in the 100m hurdles semifinals at the U.S. Track and Field Championships in June and failed to finish in the final. The top three at the U.S. Olympic Trials in July make the Rio team.

The U.S. sent three push athletes to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.

On Friday, Jones was the only Olympic women’s push athlete to compete. Lauryn Williams, who pushed for Meyers Taylor in Sochi to a silver medal, has retired. Aja Evans said after her Sochi bronze medal that she would pursue track and field’s heptathlon.

“[Jones] hasn’t pushed a bobsled since Sochi, so to have her come out here and do her thing after just one day of training only brings the level of the team up,” Meyers Taylor said. “We’re all supportive of her pursuing her run to Rio and excited to see her crushing it on the track, but we’re even more excited for her to come back to bobsled one day.”

The World Cup bobsled season starts in late November.

MORE TRACK AND FIELD: Lolo Jones inspired by Gail Devers

Pole vaulter, 84, sets her sights on more records

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BURLINGTON, Vt. — An 84-year-old pole vaulter isn’t putting her pole down anytime soon.

Flo Filion Meiler left Thursday for the World Masters Athletics Championship Indoor in Poland, where she’ll compete in events including the long jump, 60-meter hurdles, 800-meter run, pentathlon and pole vault, for which she’s the shoo-in.

The petite, energetic woman from Shelburne, Vermont, said she feels more like 70 than nearly 85.

“But you know, I do train five days a week. And when I found out I was going to compete at the worlds, I’ve been training six days a week because I knew I would really get my body in shape,” she said last week, after track and field training at the University of Vermont.

But she literally won’t have any competition in the pole vault in the championships, which runs March 24-31 in Torun, Poland. She is the only one registered in her age group, 80-84, for the sport, for which she set a world record at age 80. In the men’s pole vault, nine men are listed as competing in that age group.

Meiler said she the events she likes the best are the hurdles and the pole vault – one of the more daring track and field events, in which competitors run while carrying a fiberglass or composite pole, brace it against the ground to launch themselves over a high bar, and land on a mat.

“You really have to work at that,” she said. “You have to have the upper core and you have to have timing, and I just love it because it’s challenging.”

Meiler is used to hard work. She grew up on a dairy farm, where she helped her father with the chores, feeding the cattle and raking hay. In school, she did well at basketball, took tap and ballroom dancing, and, living near Lake Champlain, she water skied.

Meiler, who worked for 30 years as a sales representative for Herbalife nutritional supplements, and her husband, Eugene, who was a military pilot and then became a financial analyst, together competed in water skiing.

“Many times when I did water ski competition I was the only gal in my age group,” she said.

She’s a relative newcomer to pole vaulting and track and field, overall. At age 60, she was competing in doubles tennis with her husband in a qualifying year at the Vermont Senior Games when a friend encouraged her to try the long jump because competitors were needed.

“That was the beginning of my track career,” she said, standing in a room of her home, surrounded by hundreds of hanging medals. She took up pole vaulting at 65.

Athletics has helped her though some hard times, she said. She and her husband adopted three children after losing two premature biological babies and a 3-year-old. Two years ago, their son died at age 51.

And she desperately misses her training partner, a woman who started having health problems about five years ago and can no longer train. It’s tough to train alone, she said, and she hopes to find a new partner.

“She’s incredibly serious about what she does,” said Meiler’s coach, Emmaline Berg. “She comes in early to make sure she’s warmed up enough. She goes home and stretches a lot. So she pretty much structures her entire life around being a fantastic athlete, which is remarkable at any age, let alone hers.”

And it has paid off, said Berg, an assistant track coach at Vermont.

Berg herself first started following Meiler 10 years ago while she was a student at New Hampshire’s Dartmouth College, watching her at the annual Dartmouth Relays.

“She was like a local celebrity,” she said.

Setting a record at age 80 with a 6-foot (1.8-meter) pole vault at the USA Track and Field Adirondack Championships in Albany, New York, while her husband watched, Meiler said, was one of her happiest days.

“I was screaming, I was so happy,” she said.

The overall world record for women’s pole vaulting is 16.6 feet (5.6 meters), according to the International Association of Athletics Federations.

Meiler turns 85 in June, when she’ll head to the National Senior Games in New Mexico.

That will put her in a new age group, in which she hopes to set even more records.

Meiler’s athletic achievements are remarkable and something to be celebrated, said Dr. Michael LaMantia, director of the University of Vermont Center on Aging.

Pole vaulting clearly isn’t for everyone of her age, but in general, activity should be, LaMantia said.

“She can serve as a role model for other seniors,” he said.

Amateur boxing president steps aside during IOC inquiry

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland — With Olympic boxing under investigation by the IOC, the president of the sport’s governing body said on Friday he was stepping aside to let an interim leader take charge.

Gafur Rakhimov sai d he was not resigning as AIBA president, however, and did not call for new elections.

Rakhimov’s status on a U.S. Treasury Department sanctions list as an alleged heroin trafficker is part of an inquiry by an International Olympic Committee-appointed panel.

The panel will update the IOC executive board next week in Lausanne, Switzerland. AIBA could be derecognized by IOC members in June.

The IOC halted planning for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic boxing tournaments and blocked AIBA officials from contacting organizers in Japan.

“The allegations against me were fabricated and based on politically motivated lies,” Rakhimov said. “I trust that the truth will prevail. Nevertheless, I have always said that I would never put myself above boxing, and as president, I have a duty to do everything in my power to serve our sport and our athletes.”

Under AIBA statutes, an interim president is picked from among the five vice-presidents, who include several Rakhimov supporters. The executive committee is due to meet by telephone this weekend. The interim leader can serve only a maximum 365 days before fresh elections, however, meaning that arrangement can’t last through to the Tokyo Olympics.

When Rakhimov was elected last year, his supporters pushed for a plan to allow the president to step aside while still retaining key influence and being able to return at any time, but that was defeated.

It’s not clear if Rakhimov’s departure would be enough to calm the IOC, which has also criticized AIBA over how fights are judged, anti-doping measures, and its debts.

The IOC could try to host an Olympic boxing tournament without AIBA, and some national boxing officials have tried to form a group which could help the IOC stage the event.