Lolo Jones has been everywhere leading up to the London Games. You could not turn the television set on without seeing her pop up on an advertisement or in an interview. Yet, the hurdler is not even a favorite in the 100-meters.
The American media have been neglecting the favorites in the event because she has a vibrant personality and a compelling story. It is that simple.
Jones had a difficult childhood. Her mother worked numerous jobs to care for her six children as the father was absent the majority of the time. They were constantly moving, and at one point the family was homeless. The story of living in the Des Moines church basement has been told over and over.
Her story of triumph is what draws fans to her. It is, at its core, The American Dream. She was an underdog who fought and overcame to make it to the highest level of her profession.
“I just wanted to get out of poverty,” she said. “I knew what my mom was experiencing, she was working two jobs to help feed us. I just knew getting to college was the answer.”
She worked hard to become a track star in high school, to earn a scholarship to LSU, and to make it all the way to the Olympics. However, her story did not end in gold.
Jones was a favorite at the 2008 Beijing Games, but she hit the last hurdle and fell to the track. It was a crushing defeat that saw her dream go up in smoke.
That only added to the drama entering the 2012 Games. When Jones' name is brought up the clip of the fall is inevitably shown. Americans love drama.
As much as fans and media want to will her to gold in London, it is unlikely to happen.
Her 2012 best time has been 12.74 seconds, and that stands ninth among Americans this year. Both other U.S. hurdlers in the event, Kellie Wells and defending gold medalist Dawn Harper, have been quicker this season.
What about outside of the U.S.?
Australia's Sally Pearson may be the favorite to take gold. Pearson has five of the 10 fastest times this year. In 2012, she has topped out at 12.40 seconds. Jamaica's Brigitte Foster-Hylton ran a 12.51 at the National Trials.
If it is a clean race Jones will likely not finish in a podium position. Her best hopes at standing on the elusive podium is if a couple opponents make a critical error such as hers back in Beijing. A very slim possibility.
Jones has a great story, is easy to cheer for, and is back to being the underdog. Being doubted will not phase Jones. It may even give her more motivation to prove everyone wrong. But the bottom line is: she is not as quick as the field.
If Jones can medal it will be a fitting end to an amazing story, but she has a lot of work to do to get there.