Former N.C. track star in the running for spot on 2018 Olympic bobsled team
She is among several ex-track athletes who’ve made the switch to the winter sport
Former University of North Carolina at Charlotte track and field star Briauna Jones is trading in her running spikes and jumping shoes for a full-body racing suit and below-freezing temperatures.
The 24-year-old was named to the U.S. Women’s Bobsled National Team for the 2016-17 season and is vying for a spot on Team USA for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Jones, who graduated from UNC-Charlotte in 2014, was an all-conference jumper and sprinter for the 49ers, helping take the team’s 400-meter relay team to the NCAA Championships in 2012. But after plans for the 2016 Summer Olympics fell through, Jones — with the aid of UNC-Charlotte head coach Bob Olesen — decided to give bobsledding a try. After just a month of training, Jones attended the USA Bobsled & Skeleton combine, which led to an invitation to a bobsled push camp, where she won the 2016 USA Bobsled Rookie Push Championships. Shortly afterward, Jones placed fifth at the National Push Championships.
The Summerville, South Carolina, native joins a chorus of other former track and field athletes to take a stab at bobsledding, including Lauryn Williams and controversial hurdler Lolo Jones. World champion sprinter Tyson Gay initially entered the National Push Championships in September, but pulled out weeks later. Former University of Alabama at Birmingham track star Vonetta Flowers was the first African-American to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics when she took first place as part of the two-person bobsled team.
“I’d love to see more people who look like me doing it, because I’ve met so many little kids who are just fascinated about what I do, some of them being African-American,” Jones recently told the McClatchy news service. “It’s so important that they see themselves in me and they know that this is something that they can do, too. You don’t have to have a lot of money or live in an Arctic climate to do a winter sport.”
Jones could be joined in South Korea by another former North Carolina collegiate athlete, as former North Carolina A&T State University football player Adrian Adams is also competing for a spot on the final roster come 2018. Adams, whose father Randy Russell was also a bobsled athlete, has been training in the sport since 2012, winning gold in the two-man race at the 2015-16 North American Cup.
Team USA is set to compete next at the Altenberg World Cup in Germany from Jan. 2-8, 2017.