It’s doubtful anyone would think that Lolo Jones was made of anything but the sternest stuff.
The 34-year-old native of Des Moines, Iowa, is one of the few athletes to have competed at both Summer and Winter Olympic Games — an impressive feat in itself.
But that’s before mentioning she transitioned from competing as a hurdler to appearing in bobsled events where she hurtles down an ice track at speeds close to 100 miles per hour (161 kph).
“There’s nothing I can tell anyone for their first trip down a bobsled track,” Jones told CNN.
“It was honestly like I was stuffed inside a metal trash can and thrown off a mountain. It’s a lot of noise, you’re getting banged up inside the sled.
“But you learn to appreciate certain elements of it and, man, I’ll definitely be able to tell my kids one day: ‘I am a tough chick.'”
‘Pray, read a book’
After an injury-hit summer on the track, in which she pulled out of the US Olympic trials, Jones has fulfilled her first bobsled dates of the season and is now preparing for more competition in Europe over the winter months.
The International Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation World Cup tour event in Lake Placid, New York, was also her first competitive outing in the sled since appearing at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Yet she’s reluctant to choose which sport she prefers.
“Hurdling I have more control because, you know (it) is an individual sport and I have to do a lot within that race, you know individual adjustments,” she says.
“But bobsled I just have to be the most powerful, fastest athlete at the top. Once I’m in the bobsled, because I’m the brake man, I do nothing.
“A lot of people ask me what I do in a bobsled and I’m like ‘pray, read a book.’ I mean, I’m doing nothing until the finish line and then I pull the brake.”
Making the most of success
Jones is known for her positivity and upbeat nature, which she often displays online as an avid user of Twitter, where she has more than 425,000 followers.
She was favored for gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics but stumbled at the second last hurdle in the 100-meter hurdles final when victory seemed certain.
The London Games four years later saw her just miss out on a medal when she finished fourth. Her bid to compete at Rio 2016 was hampered by a hamstring injury — her last race before July’s trials was in February.
But there have been many successes in Jones’ career as well, including world indoor championship gold for the 60-meter hurdles in 2008 and 2010.
She also picked up a gold medal in the combined bobsled-skeleton team event at the 2013 world championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
“I know that failure and losing is a major setback and it hurts you. There are so many times when I’m just like ‘(I) might be done, I quit,’ Jones says.
“But then, I take a day or two and I can take away something from that. Then I use that to eventually win.
“When I’m talking to younger generations I’m like: ‘You lost this race, you didn’t achieve your goal but that doesn’t mean you can’t.’ My first time I tried to make an Olympic team I failed miserably.
“Now, I sit here as a three-time Olympian and one of the few athletes to go to a Summer and Winter Olympics.
“Just because you fail doesn’t mean you always will continue to do so. You just have to use it all as momentum and get better.”
‘Breaking down barriers
Jones is an advocate for greater female participation in sport.
She is an ambassador for the ASICS Extra Mile campaign, which promotes self-confidence and healthy lifestyles for young girls through running.
This work is important to her given she started out in track and field with a pair of donated running shoes.
But at the highest level, some barriers remain for women which she feels are important to break down.
“I think for female athletes in sports, it’s evolving. For so many years, we didn’t have actually the chance to compete. And there’s still areas where we are trying to break through, even in the bobsled,” Jones says.
“People ask me every day, ‘Are you on the four-man bobsled team?’ Right now, women in the Olympics are only allowed to compete in the two-man.
“We’re trying to get the four-man bobsled crew into the Olympics. So female athletes are still trying to progress as we go into the sport.”