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Jones clears the hurdles to cut it on ice

Olympic bobsledder Lolo Jones poses for a portrait during the 2013 U.S. Olympic Team Media Summit in Park City, Utah September 30, 2013. REU
Olympic bobsledder Lolo Jones poses for a portrait during the 2013 U.S. Olympic Team Media Summit in Park City, Utah September 30, 2013. REU

By Justin Palmer

ROSA KHUTOR, Russia (Reuters) - It has taken time for American Lolo Jones to get to grips with the nuances and technical demands of bobsleigh but the marquee recruit from athletics to winter sports believes she is now at the right end of a "steep learning curve".

Jones, competing at her first Winter Olympics as a brakeman in the USA-3 sled, said making the transition from hurdles to a bobsled track was not easy.

"It's been a steep learning curve, Besides learning how to push a bobsled, then there is maintenance on the bobsled ... we are coming from individual sports so learning to work with someone else can be a challenge," she told reporters.

"I'm a very technical person because I'm a hurdler, that kind of helped me to break it down but I don't think it's easy as people assume.

"USA bobsled has just done a great job in recruiting some of the top track and field athletes in the world - we make it look easy but there have been moments in practice where we were pretty frustrated in trying to get the technique down."

Former Olympic relay and world 100 meters champion Lauryn Williams will push Elana Meyers in the USA-1 sled in Sochi.

The 31-year-old Jones, in her second season in bobsleigh, will push Fenlator as the United States goes in search of a first gold medal in women's bobsleigh since Jill Bakken and Vonetta Flowers won the inaugural title in 2002.

For Jones, bobsleigh is all about having fun.

"It's fun just because I'm riding a bobsled. What can't be fun about that?

"It's absolutely different. There is no pressure - it's Jaz's first Olympics so she's all about having a great experience and just wanting to execute.

"For me, it's all about being the best team mate, and giving her the most amazing push and velocity. Whatever Jaz needs, my focus is on her.

"I don't have to drive the bobsled but I know what it's like to have pressure and to think about 10 different things."

PEP TALKS

The former world indoor champion has twice walked away from the Summer Olympics empty handed - when she was expected to win at least a medal.

She had Olympic gold at her mercy in Beijing in 2008 when she powered to the front in the 100 meters hurdles final, only to hit the penultimate barrier and lose all momentum and staggering over the line in seventh.

While team mate Dawn Harper celebrated victory, a forlorn Jones was face down on the track crying.

Four years later in London she produced a season's best in the final but that was only good enough for fourth, one tenth of a second outside the medals.

"I was the underdog in Beijing, even though I'd run the five fastest times in the world, it was my first Olympics - I think everyone gives you grace at your first one," she said.

"And the next one they just expected so much."

There have been moments of self-doubt in her bobsleigh journey but carrying her through has been the realization that "someone else is relying on me".

Her selection to the U.S. team was not without controversy - with critics saying the often outspoken athlete was picked on popularity and looks - rather than experience and performance.

Emily Azevedo reacted to being overlooked by expressing her disdain, saying: "I should have been working harder on gaining Twitter followers than gaining muscle mass."

At a news conference at the start of the Games, Jones said she had been "thrown under the bus" over her selection.

Fenlator's support, she said, had been key.

"Jaz has had some pep talks with me, kind of gearing me in the right way.

"When you have somebody who knows is counting on you it's more motivation."

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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