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2014 Winter Olympics Preview: Bobsled

(SportsNetwork.com) - The United States men's Olympic bobsled team has its hero back for another run at gold.

The women's team, so successful since the sport debuted for women in 2002, will get a push from a pair of Summer Olympians who have traded their track spikes for bobsled shoes.

American hopes in Olympic bobsled have rarely been higher.

Steven Holcomb is the anchor, having piloted his sled in Vancouver to the first American gold medal in men's bobsled in 62 years. Track stars Lolo Jones and Lauryn Williams headline the women's team, part of what one team official called the best group of U.S. push athletes ever.

Jones is a decorated hurdler who failed in two Olympics to win a medal. She was on her way to winning the 100-meter hurdles in Beijing six years ago when she tripped over a gate. She placed fourth at the London Olympics, the decided to take up bobsledding.

She has earned two medals since, and credits her well-publicized gaffe at the 2008 Olympics for starting in motion the ride that led her to a winter sport as a push athlete on the bobsled team.

"Had I not hit a hurdle in Beijing, I would not have tried to go to London to redeem myself," Jones, 31, wrote on Facebook after the U.S. team was named. "Had I not (gotten) fourth in London, I would not have tried to find another way to accomplish the dream.

"Bobsled was my fresh start. Bobsled humbled me. Bobsled made me stronger. Bobsled made me hungry. Bobsled made me rely on faith. Bobsled gave me hope.

"I push a bobsled, but bobsled pushed me to never give up on my dreams."

Williams, too, came to the sport late. Like Jones, she was named as a push athlete. Unlike Jones, she has won an Olympic medal -- two, in fact.

The 31-year-old former sprinter ran in the qualifier for the 400-meter relay in London and earned a gold medal when the U.S. team won the final. She won a silver medal in the 100-meter sprint at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Williams took to bobsledding quickly, making an immediate impact when she placed third in last year's U.S. National Push Championships after just three days of training. She has claimed three medals in the four competitions she's entered.

USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation CEO Darrin Steele called it "the deepest field of push athletes we've ever had."

Steele defended the selection of Jones against accusations she was chosen to lend star power to the American team.

Jones offended veteran bobsledders last year when she complained in a video about a $741 check she received from the U.S. bobsledding federation. She was picked over former Olympian Emily Azevedo and Katie Eberling.

"We knew heading into the season that the Olympic selection was going to be extremely difficult," Steele said in a statement. "It's a good problem to have, but it meant that some outstanding athletes would not make the Olympic team."

Canada won its first two women's Olympic bobsled medals in Vancouver and gold medalists Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse will defend their title on the track in Sochi.

Lyndon Rush, Dave Bissett and Lascelles Brown, who were on the men's four-man team that won bronze for Canada in 2010, also are back for another go.

Jamie Greubel, Elana Meyers and Jazmine Fenlator earned the other three spots on the U.S. women's team as the top three American pilots in the international standings.

Greubel and Williams won a World Cup race in Igls, Austria, where the team was announced on Jan. 19.

U.S. women have won a medal in every Olympics since the sport was introduced at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.

American men had seen little success until Holcomb piloted his four-man USA-1 sled to a gold medal at the 2010 Olympics.

Holcomb and Nick Cunningham will pilot the U.S. four-man sleds in Sochi and also two of the three two-man sleds. Cory Butner also will drive a two-man sled.

Americans haven't won a gold in two-man bobsled since 1936 but Holcomb, as the overall World Cup champion, is a favorite in Sochi.

Curt Tomasevicz, Steve Langton and Chris Fogt will be the push crew on USA-1 for Holcomb, and Justin Olsen, Johnny Quinn and Dallas Robinson will push Cunningham's sled.

Germany had won four straight Olympic gold medals in four-man bobsled before Vancouver. The Germans, traditionally dominant in the sport, has won three straight gold medals in two-man.

Bobsled will be the last sport to begin its program at the Sochi Olympics. Competition will take place from Feb. 16-23.