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Lolo Jones: Hurdler's Performance in London Won't Alter Her Celebrity Status

EUGENE, OR - JUNE 23:  Lolo Jones reacts after qualifying for 2012 Olympics after coming in third in the women's 100 meter hurdles final during Day Two of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials at Hayward Field on June 23, 2012 in Eugene, Oregon.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Steven GoldsteinContributor ISeptember 24, 2016

American hurdler Lolo Jones arrives at the end of a proverbial pathway with the start of the 2012 Summer Olympics on Friday. This one stretches a little longer than 100 meters.

Four years ago, Jones was a palpable favorite to claim gold at Beijing. But, on the penultimate hurdle of the 100 meter event, she tripped, tumbling her way into a paltry seventh place. Now, Jones has an unabated shot at redemption in London.

The story actuated Lolo to the national limelight, and Jones now stands as one of the most famous runners in the country. Regardless of how she finishes in this summer's Games, her celebrity status will extend well beyond the finish line.

Listed at 5'9" and 130 pounds, Jones means everything to the somnolent world of track and field. Her budding stardom, coupled with the highly anticipated arrival of the Olympics, spells big things for American runners.

Jones began her career at Louisiana State University, where she garnered 11 All-American honors and three NCAA titles. She clings to the all-time American record for 60 meter hurdles, clocking a 7.72 second effort at the 2010 Indoor World Title.

But Jones is best known for her stunning physical appearance and her self-acknowledged virginity.  Jones' effort to save herself until marriage has linked her to the likes of New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow, drawing a cache of media around her off-field love life.

Is it fair that Lolo's personal ambitions run around the Internet faster than Lolo herself runs a race? Maybe not. But in today's media miasma, Jones' publicity is vital for generating Olympic buzz.

With a spread in Rolling Stone, a feature on MTV.com and an appearance on Jay Leno, everybody's talking about her. Her Twitter following dominates that of her contemporaries, even '08 champion and U.S. front-runner Dawn Harper. Jones is here to stay, medals and standings aside.

Despite falling short of the cut for the U.S. outdoor world team last year, Lolo Jones remains the subject of camera shutters and interviews. Is this such a bad thing for the sport?

In today's nuanced media frenzy, publicity and attention can come from just about anything. Track and field—all of the Olympics, for that matter—enjoy a spiked viewership, while Jones' intentions and image remain pure.

She really has nothing to lose as the Games sweep begin. Should Jones be victorious in London, her augmented fame will be justified, while the Americans proudly boast another medal. Should she fail, her celebrity status remains in tact, and while no athlete wants to fall back on being a pop culture socialite, she would still remain as famous as any prospective first-place finisher.

People love a backstory, plain and simple. Jones has it, and she doesn't risk it this summer with another poor finish. It's a bit of Tebow-ism, Lin-ism, and every other ad hoc -ism that's risen in the 21st century: the story comes before the stats.

All eyes will be on Lolo Jones this week. Whether those eyes peer towards the winner's podium remains to be seen. 

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