Jan 19, 2014, 6:06 PM EDT
Lolo Jones and Lauryn Williams were used to crossing a finish line, taking deep breaths and peering up at a scoreboard to learn if they had made an Olympic Team.
No wonder they were nervous Sunday night.
The U.S. Olympic Bobsled Team announcement was not so cut and dry. The athletes entered a room after a six-person committee deliberated, and they listened.
“After my name was called,” Jones said, “it was a deep sigh of relief.”
Both of their names were officially called around the stroke of midnight in Austria. Jones and Williams, with five Summer Olympics between them, were selected to their first Winter Olympic teams.
“The biggest honor I’ll ever have in my life is representing Team USA,” Jones said. “I’m overwhelmed with emotions.”
The rest of the U.S. Olympic women’s bobsled team are drivers Jamie Greubel, Elana Meyers and Jazmine Fenlator and Meyers’ usual push athlete, Aja Evans (full men’s team at bottom). Driver and push athlete combinations will be decided later, according to U.S. Bobsled.
Jones, 31, hopes to reverse Olympic heartbreak in Sochi and win her first medal.
In 2008, she was favored to win the 100m hurdles and leading the final when she clipped the ninth of 10 hurdles and stumbled to seventh place. She cried alone in a hallway underneath the Beijing Olympic Stadium.
In 2012, she finished fourth in the 100m hurdles, one tenth of a second off the podium.
Jones picked up bobsledding shortly after the London Games at the urging of 2010 Olympic bronze medalist Meyers. A quick learner, she finished the 2012-13 season as the No. 4 push athlete on the U.S. team.
“The bobsled process is definitely more stressful,” than track and field, Jones said. “As a brakeman, there’s a lot of criteria and races. It’s not just one and done. it’s the course of a season.”
Williams, 30, learned that this year. She won Olympic gold in the 4x100m relay in London and silver in the 100m in Athens in 2004. Last summer, Jones planted the seed for Williams to convert at a track meet.
Williams, who went to the University of Miami, was well aware of the drawbacks, not the least of which was the climate change. She tried out and sprouted quickly, climbing the push athlete ladder faster than Jones had the year before.
Williams capped her pre-Olympic season by winning her first World Cup race, pushing for Greubel in Igls, Austria, earlier Sunday. That likely cemented her spot on the Olympic Team over the more seasoned Katie Eberling, who had more experience with Greubel but had never won with Greubel.
“I joined bobsled just to be a helper and add positive energy to the team,” said Williams, who could become the fifth person to win a medal in the Summer and Winter Olympics and second to win golds in each. “If my name wasn’t called [Sunday], I wasn’t going to be upset. I’ve enjoyed this journey.”
The competition among five women for three push athlete spots was close all season, which brought extra nerves to Sunday’s announcement.
A six-person committee that chose the team considered World Cup race finishes and combine scores and push championships results from the summer and took drivers’ input. Eberling and 2010 Olympian Emily Azevedo were left off.
“We do our best to look at performance numbers,” U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation CEO Darrin Steele said. “It’s a team sport, so there’s always a little bit of uncertainty with the numbers that we get.”
A total of 128 athletes have competed in Summer and Winter Olympics, according to OlympStats.com. The last American to do so was Chris Witty, who competed in cycling in 2000 and speed skating in 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2006.
The outgoing, joke-cracking Jones continued to make headlines off the ice over the last 16 months. She made light of her bobsled paycheck in a Vine in June and agreed to a date with a college student via Twitter and was involved in a Lake Placid, N.Y., incident in July.
Snowboarder Shaun White and hockey player Patrick Kane are the only 2014 U.S. Olympians with more Twitter followers than Jones.
”The determination in me, I wish people could see that,” Jones told The Associated Press earlier in January. ”It’s not a gimmick. It’s not for publicity. It never was. It’s always been about me achieving a dream and being able to tell that story down the road, that I never gave up and I fought hard.”
It would not be a surprise to see the U.S. win two medals in women’s bobsled for the first time. Greubel and Meyers rank second and third, respectively, in this season’s World Cup standings.
They trail reigning Olympic and world champion Kaillie Humphries of Canada. Fenlator ranks seventh.
“The podium,” Williams said, “is where we’re headed.”
Here is the complete 2014 U.S. Olympic Bobsled Team:
Steven Holcomb, Chris Fogt, Steve Langton, Curt Tomasevicz
Nick Cunningham, Justin Olsen, Johnny Quinn, Dallas Robinson
Steven Holcomb and one of the six above push athletes
Nick Cunningham and one of the six above push athletes
Cory Butner and one of the six above push athletes
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