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Bobsledder Briauna Jones experiencing mixed emotions at Olympics

William Douglas, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in Olympics

"Just to hear my teammates speak so highly of me really touched me," she said. "Just to hear that they appreciate me just really spoke to me because I'm here for them, and just to know that they're here for me, too, is really powerful."

Life as a backup is hurry up and wait. Jones said she practices and attends meetings with the team. She said the toughest part of the job so far was figuring out where to watch the Winter Games' Opening Ceremony while her teammates marched into a packed stadium as the crowd roared.

Jones did manage to score at least one Olympic perk that's usually not afforded to backup athletes: She's living in the athlete's village because a room became available.

"That's been an amazing experience, being able to see first-hand all the amenities that the athlete's village has and it's been a really cool experience seeing all the other nations," she said.

Jones said her spirits have been buoyed by Charlotte residents and students and faculty at UNC Charlotte, where she was a track and field athlete. It's where the seeds of her bobsled career were planted.

UNCC track and field coach Bob Olesen, a former Olympic bobsledder, suggested to Jones that she try the sport after she failed to qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro as a track athlete.

Olesen helped prepare her for a USA Bobsled and Skeleton combine -- a tryout -- in Columbia, S.C., in June 2016 that helped launch her bobsled career. Olesen continues to serve as a sounding board and a shoulder to lean on when things go wrong.

When Jones expressed her disappointment at being named a backup on the Olympic team Olesen reminded her that "only five women in the country are going to get to do this, so that's pretty impressive on its own."

 

"It's really crazy that my university and the city of Charlotte keep reaching out to me, sending me all these photos and articles that I've been featured in," she said. "It's really cool because after the team was named, I was really down and I wasn't really up to talking to people. But everyone was just reaching out and sending me their love. It's been an amazing process."

Jones won't be returning to Charlotte and her job in apparel at Dick's Sporting Goods in SouthPark mall immediately when the Winter Games end Feb. 25.

Instead, she's heading straight to Lake Placid, N.Y., and its Olympic track to begin transitioning from bobsled brakeman and to pilot. She wants to be in the driver's seat at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

"I ran track for almost my entire life and I thought that was my calling," she said. "But coming into this sport for less than two years, I realize this is where I'm supposed to be."

(c)2018 McClatchy Washington Bureau

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