Lauryn Williams could become the first woman to win a gold medal in both the summer and winter Olympics. (Source: Team USA/Flickr)
(RNN) – You may be aware of Lolo Jones' transition from hurdler to bobsledder, but she's not the only athlete to compete in the both the summer and winter Olympics.
Far from it. In fact, she's not even the only American woman to be doing so this year.
She's one of 10 Americans and 130 total athletes who have competed in both Olympics, including Lauryn Williams, who's joining Jones in an identical switch of disciplines for Sochi. Williams won a silver medal in the 100 meters in Athens in 2004 and gold in the 4x100 relay in London, and was persuaded to join the bobsled team by Jones.
Should she win a gold medal in Sochi, Williams would be the first woman to do so in both the summer and winter Olympics.
Williams responded to questions via email through her management company, Diplomat Enterprises, and said the two sports are surprisingly similar.
"I hope that my participation and success in bobsledding will show people that you can honestly do anything you put your mind to," Williams said. "In bobsledding, brakemen need to be able to run fast and generate enough power to give the driver an edge, and that's my specialty. Many of the lifting exercises we do in track and field are the same as those used in bobsledding. Having a track and field background definitely helped."
Jones had been a hurdler in both the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics, finishing seventh and fourth, respectively. She made the transition to an icy event to try to capture the medal that eluded her in both Beijing and London.
It's her story that is getting the most attention due to her Twitter fame, at-times overly candid interviews and high profile Olympic failings, but Williams' story could turn out to be more historic. The only other person to capture gold in both Olympics was American Eddie Eagan, who did so in boxing in 1920 and four-man bobsledding in 1932.
Williams described bobsledding as an exponentially more intense experience than riding a roller coaster, and said making Olympic history would be a dream come true.
"It would be a great honor to accomplish this feat and make history in such an awesome way, but this is a team sport," Williams said. "There are six of us on the Olympic team, and I ride in a sled with another person, so any medals won are a victory for the ‘Wolfpack' and the entire country. As much as this isn't about me, being the first woman to win a gold in both Olympics would mean a lot for a lot of people, including myself."
The "Wolfpack" is the term members of the bobsledding team have for themselves.
Only three other athletes have medalled in both Olympics: Norway's Jacob Thams (ski jumping in 1924 and yachting in 1936), Canada's Clara Hughes (cycling in 1996 and speed skating in 2002) and East Germany's Christa Luding-Rothenburger (speed skating in 1984, 1988 and 1992 and cycling in 1988) who is also the only athlete to medal in both Olympics in the same year.
Gillis Grafstrom, of Sweden, took gold in figure skating in the 1920 Olympics before summer and winter sports were split into different events, and took gold in the same event in the first two Winter Olympics in 1924 and 1928, but he is not credited as having medalled in both the summer and winter games due to competing in the same event.
Williams describes herself as an athlete who is learning to bobsled and said this will likely be the last time she competes in the Olympics, regardless of the outcome. As fulfilling as winning a medal would be, Williams said being an inspiration to other people is equally motivating.
"When I came to the sport, I did it because I'm an adventure seeker. I enjoy competing," Williams said. "The sport is really fun, but it's very low on the American sports totem pole and more people should know about not only the sport but also the great group of sliders that represent the United States each year. If my participation brings more attention and commitment to the sport and its competitors, that would be great."
The U.S. women's bobsled team has medalled in every Olympics since the sport was added in 2002, and are widely considered to have to their deepest team ever for Sochi.
The Games start Feb. 6 and the women's bobsledding events are scheduled for Feb. 18-19.
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