KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – Lolo Jones stood in the cold drizzle after her second run on Tuesday, politely answering reporters' questions after her team's 11th-place finish in the second of four heats at the two-man Olympic bobsled race.
Her eyes kept darting elsewhere.
Jones had just made a bit of history, becoming only the 10th American to compete in both the Summer and Winter Olympics. But a portion of the hurdler-turned-bobsledder's attention was on a teammate who is now on the verge of making sports history.
Lauryn Williams, the former University of Miami track star who got her start in sprinting because a coach saw her running through traffic to Blockbuster in Detroit when she was 9, was barreling into first place along with teammate Elana Meyers as Jones and teammate Jazmine Fenlator spoke to the press. It was Jones who suggested that Williams switch to bobsled, and that might end up being as much of Lolo's legacy in the winter sport as anything she does on the track.
If Williams' team holds its lead on Wednesday against the favored Canadians (and the American team of Jamie Greubel and Aja Evans), she will become the first woman ever to win a gold medal at the Summer and Winter Olympics. She won a relay gold in London and a silver medal in Athens.
"I don't think that has set in yet," she said. "I think the main thing for me is to help the team. I had no expectations of what it was going to be."
Jones' run was respectable but shaky, with a strong start but a couple of wobbles along the way. She and Fenlator are currently 1.84 seconds back, and unlikely to medal on Wednesday. She said she wasn't thinking about the podium, but rather taking everything "day by day." Williams, however, has a shot at something only one other Olympian has ever done. And that possibility is even more improbable considering she and her partner crashed their sled in the braking area just two days ago. "They had to completely rebuild it," Meyers said.
Williams, with her constantly upbeat disposition, grinned as she called the wreck a "bonding moment" because Meyers didn't blame her even though "I totally felt it was my fault." BMW technicians worked late into the night on Sunday, and Williams and Meyers realized the mistake had made them much closer. They came out flying in the first heat on Tuesday, surprising the field with a blistering run to take a lead they would end up carrying overnight. The Americans will enter their third run with a 0.23-second advantage. Williams, beaming throughout her interview session, joked that she was just trying to "push the poop out of this sled."
[Related: Why is it called bobsled?]
It's been an amazing decade for Williams. Back in 2004, her goal was simply to make the NCAA championships in track. She ended up running the second-fastest time in the world that year and won a silver medal in the 100-meter final in Athens. She came back to win relay gold in London and here she is now, a 5-foot-3, 30-year-old dynamo who quit track several times as a child because she didn't like the training, now on the verge of making athletic history. Even if Williams and the pilot she calls "E" finish in the top three Wednesday, she will be only the fifth person ever to medal in both the Summer and Winter Games.
That possibility looms for everyone watching her, including Jones, but it hardly weighs on Williams' mind. As in track, she just wants to be a good teammate. Jones may have 388,000 Twitter followers to her 7,750, but Williams doesn't seem to want any extra acclaim.
"I didn't come here for fame, for glory, for shine, to get rich or anything," Williams said. "Whoever gets the attention, it's good for them. If you guys like covering me, that's awesome. If not, that's cool, too. I just came here to help 'E.' "
The spotlight has shone consistently on Jones, but Wednesday it will most likely shift to Williams, the sunny personality now shining in the freezing rain.
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