TODAY

TODAY   |  January 21, 2014

Lolo Jones: I had to learn a lot to bobsled

Champion track and field athlete Lolo Jones talks about her transition to bobsledding, and explains how she is looking at the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Sochi as an opportunity for vindication for her career.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> face who has made it to the u.s. bobsled team. lolo jones along with lauren williams are about to become the ninth and tenth americans to compete in the summer and winter olympics . we'll talk to lolo and her teammates in a moment. but first, her interesting road to sochi .

>> lolo jones .

>> it's lolo jones ' third trip to the olympics, but her first time competing in the winter games .

>> wow. that's impressive.

>> and lane one will be lolo jones .

>> until now the 31-year-old's event track and field , the 100-meter field. she took seventh place in beijing in 2008 falling from the lead after clipping the second to last hurdle. four years later in london , a year after her spinal cord surgery, a second chance for gold, but missed the winner's podium by .1 of a second coming in fourth.

>> i was crushed afterwards. i had the best race of my year. doesn't take away from the pain i was so close to, you know, once again having a medal and not getting it.

>> her disappointment was compounded by a scathing article in the "new york times" criticizing jones from benefitting from what it called a sad and cynical marketing campaign capitalizing on her "cover girl" looks. brought jones to tears on the "today" show.

>> it tore me apart. it was heartbreaking.

>> after two summer games without a medal, at the suggestion of olympic bobsledder myers, jones tried her hand at a new sport. a silver medal in her first world cup as a breakman, was all she needed to focus on her dreams.

>> great way to start her career.

>> a natural and dedicated athlete, jones is also made for making headlines off the track . in 2012 , leading up to the london games, she said she planned to remain a virgin until marriage.

>> there's virgins out there. it's the hardest thing i've ever done in my life.

>> jones also took heat for posting a vine video for $741.84. she says to bring attention to how little some olympians make.

>> the whole season, that's it.

>> now she's got her sights set on sochi . and this time, she's not alone, surrounded by five teammates as she once again goes for gold. and lolo jones is with us now from germany where she is training. good morning to you.

>> hi, savannah, how you doing?

>> i'm great. i'm thinking about the day after your last race in london , you and i sitting on the set together. how heartbroken you were. if i told you in that moment, lolo , you're going back to the olympi olympics, but you're going to be on the bobsled team, would you have believed me?

>> probably not. absolutely not. i think it's funny because in the summer games i was complaining we didn't have air-conditioning. and now i definitely don't complain about lack of cold. so it's pretty thrilling. and i'm excited to be here.

>> you know, it is such a feat in itself to completely switch sports, but then to become an olympian in that sport in the space of 18 months. what does this mean to you? the chance to once again go to that olympic podium?

>> well, i think any time you represent team usa , it's the biggest honor that i'll have in my life. you feel the weight and the pressure of a country behind you. and you know that, you know, it's not only your hopes and dreams, you're fighting for other people back home. i carry that with a lot of responsibility and i hope to make everybody proud.

>> you wrote something on your facebook page after you made the team, bobsled was my fresh start , bobsled humbled me, made me stronger, hungry, rely on faith. gave me hope. is this about redemption for you?

>> well, i think it's even more about redemption. i learned so much from the moment i walked into that olympic training center and the bobsledders. they embraced me at one of my lowest points in my life. i was coming off the summer games and pretty depressed. and they lifted me up. and day by day , they encouraged me to never give up on the olympic dream . and so they really did give me a fresh start . and i am, you know, you know, i know you can't change the past. but knowing i hit hurdle, got fourth place, i wouldn't change it for the fact i know it led me to be here. led me to meet a great group of female athletes. and we are truly united and bonded and ready to go to sochi and dominate.

>> well, one thing i know has changed between your track and field life and bobsled life, you had to put on 30 pounds of muscle. you were making this spinachy smoothy concoction. was it fun to actually kind of change your mentality about what to eat, how to train, how to put on muscle?

>> it's pretty easy.

>> definitely, yeah, for track and field , obviously, you don't want too much weight on you. and for bobsled , weight comes into factor, you have to weigh a certain amount at the end of the finish. it's thrilling i had to have a different diet and change it up from my past experience with track .

>> and let's talk about how you are learning this new sport. are there any skills you carry over from track and field to bobsled ? and how does it become a lot more difficult? is this a more challenging support?

>> there are some skills that will transfer from track , obviously, the running behind the bobsled . there's a lot i had to learn and you have to be really strong and powerful for bobsled . and there's really no support like it. and it's not like you can practice the sport in high school or middle school . you really have to come there and have like no knowledge about it and have to learn everything so very quickly. and so it takes a lot of help from your teammates. and you -- it's a lot of people just molding together at the same time and so it's been a challenge. and yes, i will say it's more challenging in track and field in that aspect.

>> and also, the fact you can have these spectacular crashes. tell me about the first time you went through that experience. i heard there was a blood curdling scream.

>> well, i'm going to have to down play my crashes because my teammates, the ones that crash are right next to me. it was actually really smooth.

>> yeah. no sweat, right? team is such an important thing. and from what i've read, that's one of the most important aspects to you of this new life as a bobsledder. what is being part of the team mean to you when all your life you've been in a sport all about the individual?

>> well, there's a bible verse that says two is better than one and when one falls, another one can lift them up. that's why team is so important to me. i'd like to introduce you to my teammates. we have lauren williams from track and field , gold medal , jasmine filner, asia evans.

>> well, ladies --

>> usa ! usa ! usa !

>> there they are. you call yourself the wolfpack?

>> we call ourselves the wolf pack . absolutely.

>> all right. well, we cannot wait to hear you roar. lolo , ladies, thank you so much. congratulations to you. and we'll see you in sochi .

>> thank you, guys. thanks for having us.

>> and a reminder, all the action from sochi begins thursday, february 6th , right here on nbc. the opening ceremony is the next night. and coming