KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — The conversation happened in an airport as Lauryn Williams and Lolo Jones were making their way to Rome for a track meet. Williams asked why no one recruited her to try bobsledding. Jones replied that she was perfect for the sport.
That story ends there.
This story starts there.
Barely eight months after that chat, which as both women recall lasted only a few minutes, they will be making Olympic history. When the women's bobsled competition at the Sochi Games starts Tuesday night, Williams will be with Elana Meyers in USA-1, Jones with Jazmine Fenlator in USA-3, and they will take to the ice as the ninth and 10th Americans to compete in both the Summer and Winter Games.
"I feel that new, refreshed feeling," Williams said. "It's the same thing I felt in 2004 when I went to my first Olympics. I didn't plan on going to the Olympics that year. I was just there and it was a great opportunity and a good experience. And here I just wanted to come in and talk to all the people and hear everyone's story and understand how bobsled works."
Truth be told, Williams' understanding of how bobsled works is still rudimentary at best. But the native of Rochester, Pa., still earned a spot in the top American sled for the Sochi Games. Her combination of strength and explosive speed — honed by years in track, three Olympics, a silver medal in Athens and a gold medal as part of a winning relay in London — is exactly what the U.S. wants in push athletes.
Jones also has been a quick study and is now a three-time Olympian, after competing in hurdles in Beijing and London, missing medals by essentially a few inches both times.
That void, along with the desire to escape all the pressure she was facing as a star in track, brought her to the winter world.
"I've worked so hard for this dream," said Jones, of Des Moines, Iowa. "I'm satisfied with my efforts. I'm satisfied with my fight. But when people start knocking me, that's the most hurtful thing. I wish they could just jump inside of me and feel what I've gone through during my Olympic journey."
Their most recent Olympic journeys have had some naysayers. There were questions whether Jones making the team was a publicity stunt. Others asked how serious a sport it can be if Williams can show up out of the blue and find her way not just onto the team, but into USA-1.
The U.S. insists the stories are legit.
"They've come from an individual sport," U.S. coach Todd Hays said. "But they both have been unbelievable teammates."
Williams was going into the business world and ready to settle down before that talk with Jones. She announced her track retirement just a couple of weeks after that conversation during the layover on the way to Rome, never letting on then that another Olympic attempt may be in her future. Soon, she was consumed by the chance. And even during her 30th birthday celebration, a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Kenya and Tanzania, bobsled was on her mind.
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