Lauryn Williams never got that cover-girl treatment from the media, but she won a silver medal in the 100 meters at the 2004 Athens Games and, eight years later, a gold on the U.S. 4×100 relay team in London. Williams, who is paired with driver Jamie Greubel, is also regarded as more of a medal threat in Sochi than Jones. Though her bobsled career dates back only a few months and four World Cup races, she has already won a gold and two silvers. If Williams medals, she will become only the fifth Olympic athlete—and the second American—to medal in different sports at Summer and Winter games.
As if there won’t be enough star wattage at the bobsled track, Sochi will witness the return, after more than a decade’s absence, of the Jamaican bobsled team. Jamaican bobsledders first brought the warmth of the islands to the icy venue at the 1988 Calgary Games, transforming the ultimate underdog team into a global sensation. Though they crashed out of the competition, the Jamaicans still proved golden when Hollywood made a popular movie, Cool Runnings, based on the team’s unlikely Olympic sojourn.
The return of the Jamaican bobsledders reminds us that underdogs do have their special charms. For 17 days in Sochi, black Winter Olympians will be taking aim at their quadrennial underdog status. It has been a long, slippery and uphill struggle—and one worthy of our attention as well as our fervent embrace.
Mark Starr is a former national sports correspondent for Newsweek magazine and has covered 11 consecutive Olympics, including six Winter Games.