Anyone who didn't think Lolo Jones had a chance of winning the gold in the 100-meter hurdles need only consult her Round 1 time for evidence that she is, in fact, worth the hype.
The American sprinter—who has been afforded abundant media attention leading up to the Olympics and, as a result of that somewhat unwarranted attention, has been ridiculed by her fellow track stars and the very same media—proved her worth on Monday morning, when she ran the hurdles in 12.68 seconds.
It was the best time in her heat and the second-best time overall, paling in comparison only to that of Australia's Sally Pearson, who finished in 12.57 seconds.
Jones now moves on to the semifinals, which will take place on Tuesday, August 7 at 2:15 p.m. ET. The finals will be held the same day at 4 p.m. ET.
A month ago, the 29-year-old Jones was the subject of widespread adoration, finding herself on magazine covers galore and as the subject of any dialogue revolving around Olympic track. According to USA Today, before the trials even began, she'd been on ESPN, HBO, the NBC Nightly News and in Rolling Stone.
Because of her story, Olympic fans wanted to see her succeed: She grew up in poverty as one of six children, frequently switched schools and once lived in the basement of a church, according to The Washington Post.
She famously made headlines in May, when—during a segment on HBO's Real Sports—she discussed the difficulty of preserving her virginity for marriage. According to the Post, she claimed it is "'harder than training for the Olympics.'"
Jones has even earned the resentment of her fellow competitors because of the attention she's been getting. They claim that because she hasn't won any medals in major international competitions, she's all hype with nothing to back it up. They claim that the media loves her because of her looks and her bubbly personality, not because of anything she's done on the track.
As former World Cup bronze medalist Ginnie Crawford told NBCOlympics.com:
What proves our validity in this sport is what teams we make and what medals we win. To outside people, seeing her face and hearing her story brings notoriety to the sport, but they might not understand what we do to validate ourselves in the sport and that it’s not about a story or being a face.
Claims like Crawford's were substantiated after the trials, when Jones' performance was more than a little concerning. During the 100-meter hurdle heats, she finished in 13.01, qualifying 15th for 21 spots. It certainly wasn't the finish she was hoping for, but she redeemed herself in the final, finishing third with a time of 12.86 seconds.
Still, it was unclear whether Jones would live up to her own hype during the Olympics. She'd been turned into this larger-than-life caricature—through some fault of her own and some fault of the media—which was dangerous because she hadn't yet proven herself in the slightest.
Heading into the Olympics, she was the most famous track star of all; the only problem was, none of it was due to anything she'd actually earned on the track.
But Jones' performance on Monday changes that. Her performance on Monday was nothing like her qualifying performance at the trials. It showed she can actually compete—even if her biggest claim to fame in the past was tripping on a hurdle in the 100-meter final in 2008.
On Monday, Jones took the first step toward proving she's worth all the attention. On Tuesday, she'll take the second and third.
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