PYEONGCHANG, South Korea -- Briauna Jones fought back tears as she sat in the audience as members of the women's U.S. Olympic bobsled team spoke from a stage about her unglamorous job at the 2018 Winter Games.
Jones, a 26-year-old Charlotte, N.C., resident, is the team's backup athlete, meaning that she won't compete at the Winter Olympics unless one of the four U.S. bobsledders is injured or ill.
She's of the team, but not officially on it. Under International Olympic Committee rules for alternate athletes, she wasn't allowed to march in Friday's Opening Ceremony at Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium, won't participate in the closing festivities, and won't receive a medal if the U.S. women bobsledders capture one.
"It's really hard to be here and not be a competitor," she said after watching the U.S. team's press conference Thursday. "There are things you come across as you go through this experience that remind you that you're not competing, such as not being able to participate in opening ceremonies, and not being able to be up here on the panel with the rest of my teammates.
"Those are all reminders that I'm not an Olympic athlete," Jones said.
But team members Elana Meyers Taylor, Aja Evans, Lauren Gibbs, and Jamie Greubel Poser say Jones is a valuable member of the team, even if she doesn't receive perks and privileges that official Olympic athletes get.
"She's extremely composed," said Meyers Taylor, the pilot of one of the two U.S. women's bobsleds in Pyeongchang. "Her first World Cup race in St. Moritz, Switzerland, she won it. She handled it like a champ, and that's the biggest thing you need in an alternate. You need somebody who can come in a pressure-filled situation when things are chaotic, and handle it. And we are more than confident that Briauna can handle any situation that's thrown her way."
Evans, a brakeman, marveled that Jones has come so far so fast in less than two years of bobsledding.
"I couldn't think of a better alternate -- she would be great in either sled," Evans said. "She's so young and has so much potential to grow in the sport, so I think it's great to have her here."
The unexpected praise from her teammates caused tears to stream down Jones' face.