The only thing more satisfying than silencing critics with victory is the actual victory itself. Lolo Jones has accumulated plenty of critics over the past four years, from people who study the Olympics, to sports writers, to even her own teammates.
She was an inch too low and clipped the ninth hurdle during the 100-meter final at the 2008 Beijing Games. She finished seventh after leading the entire race.
Jones said in a post-fall interview with the Associated Press (h/t YouTube) that knocking a hurdle is rare:
“For me, it normally happens about twice a year in, you know, practice or whatever, where it just really shakes you. It’s just crazy that it happened at the biggest race of my life.”
But that is only part of why Jones has so many critics.
The dirty-blonde-haired bombshell posed nude for a 2009 issue of ESPN the Magazine. She is a 30-year-old virgin who is very public about the matter and insists she will wait for marriage before she gives it up, citing her faith as the reason why.
That is not okay, according to some.
Jeré Longman of the New York Times published an image-defiling abomination on Jones earlier this month, and in it he alludes to an opinion that the world-class athlete should not be in the media spotlight as she is because she has done nothing to earn it—as in, she is an Olympic failure.
He also suggests the publicity Jones receives is based on her “exotic beauty and on a sad and cynical marketing campaign.”
The column was intended to expose a beautiful and eccentric female athlete. All Longman accomplished was sounding like one of Jones’ many male callers whose sexual advance was scorned.
That is likely not the case, but he sure made it seem that way.
What Jones can do is shut Longman—and all her critics—up by winning an Olympic gold medal at her signature event, the 100-meter hurdles.
She clocked a 2012 personal-best time during Round 1 Monday, a flawless 12.68-second run in the sixth-and-final heat that only gold-medal favorite Sally Pearson of Australia (12.57) could top. A spot in the final is not a guarantee, of course, but it would take a catastrophic event like the one at the Beijing Games to keep her from another chance at gold.
The 2008 Olympic champion and Jones’ American teammate, Dawn Harper, qualified in a tie for sixth with Canada’s Jessica Zelinka at 12.75 seconds, far from her personal best of 12.47. Fellow American Kellie Wells qualified third, right behind Jones with a 12.69.
The three Americans will be split up in each of the three semifinal heats.
However, for your viewing pleasure (and for a good measure of where she stands), keep your eyes glued to Heat 2 of the semifinal. In Lane 4 will be Jones. Lane 7—Pearson.
They will meet again in the final just hours following the semis; however, if Jones keeps it close with Pearson it could do wonders for her already sky-high confidence and propel her to gold.
Can she silence her critics? If you can’t wait for the tape-delay from NBC (which your local news is sure to spoil just minutes before cutting to London), you can follow along here with B/R Featured Columnist Liviu Bird, who currently has a live blog running for all track and field events throughout the day.