Olympic notes: Ex-track star to push lead bobsled

Lauryn Williams has a gold medal from the 2012 London Games.
natacha pisarenko/associated press
Lauryn Williams has a gold medal from the 2012 London Games.

Lauryn Williams thought about quitting bobsledding after her very first ride four months ago.

She stuck around, and another Olympic medal may be her reward.

Williams’s improbable story grew Saturday when she was selected to push the USA-1 sled driven by Elana Meyers at the Sochi Olympics. That decision legitimizes her chance of becoming only the second person to win gold in two sports at the Summer and Winter Games, after she helped the US win the 4 x 100-meter relay at the London Games two years ago.


‘‘Incredible,’’ US coach Todd Hays said after the decisions were made. ‘‘I would have bet anybody any amount of money that no person could walk on this team as a rookie and make the team, let alone actually be in USA-1. But you look at Lauryn’s résumé and it tells you what type of athlete she is. She’s one of the greatest US sprinters of all time, incredibly talented, incredibly powerful with an incredible work ethic.’’

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Lolo Jones, another track Olympian-turned-bobsledder, and the person who recruited Williams to sliding, will push the USA-3 sled driven by Jazmine Fenlator of Wayne, N.J. In USA-2, it’s Jamie Greubel of Newtown, Pa., driving with brakeman Aja Evans of Chicago.

Jones, of Des Moines, and Williams, of Rochester, Pa., will become the ninth and 10th Americans to compete in both the Summer and Winter Olympics.

‘‘I came here to help this team, and wherever the coaches think is the best place for me to help is where I'm going to be,’’ Williams said before the pairings were known. ‘‘And I'm going to push as hard as I can. I'm excited. I love everyone on this team and I'm going to do the best job that I can.’’

The men’s two-man pairings also were revealed Saturday, with Steve Langton tabbed to push the USA-1 two-man sled driven by Steven Holcomb. Holcomb and Langton won a world title together in 2012.


The other two-man pairings for the US include Nick Cunningham driving with Dallas Robinson, along with Cory Butner driving with brakeman Chris Fogt.

None of those picks were particularly surprising.

Williams’s selection will surely raise eyebrows. She was going to be a financial planner a few months ago before deciding almost on a whim to go to Lake Placid, N.Y., and see what bobsledding was all about.

It’s now within the realm of possibility that she can join Eddie Eagan — an American who won gold as a boxer at the 1920 Summer Olympics, then as a bobsledder at the 1932 Winter Olympics — on one of the most elite Olympic lists.

‘‘You combine that everything she is together,’’ Hays said, ‘‘and you find a girl who can make herself great at just about anything.’’

Selected viewing


Olympic officials are defending the use of TV rehearsal footage to cover up a glitch in Sochi’s Opening Ceremony and the choice of a final torchbearer who had posted a racially offensive tweet about President Obama.

Friday night’s ceremony hit a bump when only four — instead of five — illuminated floating rings linked up to form the Olympic symbol in the early section of the show.

The five were supposed to join together and erupt in fireworks. But one never expanded, and the pyrotechnics never went off.

While the 40,000 spectators in the stadium saw the glitch, Russian state television cut away to air the recorded images showing all five rings joining together and fireworks exploding.

‘‘Some people decided to take some other footage and some not,’’ International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams said. “It’s a very technical Olympic ceremony, very well organized. But the show itself was a fantastic one. I don’t see what the problem is, to be honest.’’

Adams said the show ‘‘was even better on television.’’

IOC and Sochi officials also defended Irina Rodnina, the three-time figure skating gold medalist who lit the cauldron with hockey great Vladislav Tretiak at the close of the torch relay.

A tweet of Rodnina’s from last year drew new attention on social media on Friday. The image superimposed an image of a banana in front of a picture of Obama and wife Michelle.

Rodnina didn’t explain the tweet at the time and later took down the photo, but later defended it with another tweet, saying, ‘‘Freedom of speech is freedom!’’

Finland hockey restocks

Finland has chosen Kontinental Hockey League teammates to replace Tampa Bay Lightning forward Valtteri Filppula and Minnesota Wild forward Mikko Koivu. Jarkko Immonen and Sakari Salminen of the KHL’s Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod were added to the Olympic roster. And Slovakia’s Olympic campaign took another blow when New York Islanders defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky pulled out of the tournament. The 37-year-old veteran has recovered from an Oct. 19 concussion but Slovakia general manager Otto Sykora says Visnovky still didn’t feel fit enough to play at the Olympics, calling it ‘‘a huge loss for us.’’ Slovakia has already lost injured forward Marian Gaborik of the Columbus Blue Jackets . . . Anton Shipulin had Russia’s first gold medal in his grasp, heading toward a victory in front of a frenzied home crowd at Krasnaya Polyana. Then, as so often happens in biathlon, a wayward shot ruined his chances. Shipulin finished fourth in the men’s 10-kilometer sprint after missing a target at the final shooting station, when he was in the lead. That forced him to ski a penalty loop and he ended up 6.4 seconds behind winner Ole Einar Bjoerndalen of Norway — and just 0.7 seconds behind bronze medalist Jaroslav Soukup of the Czech Republic. A disappointed Shipulin said ‘‘I hate myself’’ for the miss but that ‘‘I will try to kick this failure out of my head.’’

A breakout day

The horror stories involving Sochi accommodations hit home for Johnny Quinn. The American bobsledder was taking a shower when the bathroom door would not open. Since he could not call for help, Quinn, a brakeman on the US’s second sled, did what any good bobsledder would do: He used his sled to bust a hole in the door and make his escape. “With no phone to call for help, I used my bobsled push training to break out,’’ he tweeted . . . US freestyle skier Maggie Voisin is out of the Olympics because of an ankle injury. The 15-year-old from Whitefish, Mont., is the youngest member of Team USA. She injured her right ankle during training for ski slopestyle Friday . . . The blind draw for the men’s downhill race hit a snag. Using numbered miniature Russian dolls drawn from a pot, officials placed American skier Marco Sullivan at No. 11 for Sunday’s race. Fine enough, but Peter Fill of Italy was already put into that position. US men’s coach Sasha Rearick immediately called for a redraw, which was granted. Many of the top racers, who already were scheduled to receive the prime slots between No. 8 and 22, stayed virtually the same. American favorite Bode Miller went from No. 12 to 15, while Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway moved from 21 to 18. Steven Nyman of the US drew the No. 1 spot after Jan Hudec of Canada initially had it . . . The IOC says French-based technology company Atos has extended its global sponsorship of the Olympics through 2020. Atos will provide information technology and management services for the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.