Long before she was trending on Twitter and spiking ratings for HBO, Lolo Jones was one hurdle away from achieving her lifelong dream of winning an Olympic gold medal. But Jones — who entered the 100-meter hurdles final in the 2008 Beijing Olympics as the fastest qualifier and prohibitive favorite — clipped the ninth of 10 hurdles and staggered across the finish line in a disastrous seventh place.
“The race was just going so smoothly. In the middle part, I caught my rhythm; everything was clicking. And it was just like a golden road, like the light shined down, like ‘Ahhh!’” Jones explained to the Associated Press after her race. “And then, just disaster. I didn’t even see it coming. I hit that hurdle and completely lost balance. For me, it normally happens about twice a year…It’s just crazy that it happened at the biggest race of my life.”
For Lori “Lolo” Jones, overcoming obstacles with undeniable grace and poise is nothing new. She has been a world-class hurdler — on and off the track — for her entire life.
One of six children raised by a single mother in Iowa, Jones once attended eight schools in eight years. She has lived in the basement of a Salvation Army church and was separated from her family and lived with four different local families during her career at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Des Moines.
Jones persevered through the hard times and came out on the other side in a full sprint at top speed. After being named Gatorade Midwest Athlete of the Year, Jones enrolled at LSU. While in Baton Rouge, she became an 11-time NCAA All-American and two-time member of the NCAA national title-winning 4x100-meter relay team.
Since establishing herself as an American record holder (60-meter hurdles) and Olympic heartbreaker, Jones has had substantial physical impediments placed in her way. Spinal surgery in late 2011 put her 2012 Olympic dreams in jeopardy. But, in typical Lolo style, she jumped over the barrier and kept on going.
Something of a Tim Tebow of track, the attractive Jones has made headlines by asserting that she is still a virgin, and she credits her Christian faith and old-fashioned hard work as the secrets to her success. With London calling, Jones is ready for her run at redemption, but she knows that winning that elusive gold medal won’t be easy. But she’s ready for whatever is in her way.
“They put the hurdles there for a reason; you have to get over them,” she says. “If you can’t get over them, you’re not meant to be the champion.”