Hurdler Lolo Jones talks candidly with TODAY's Savannah Guthrie about the personal and professional challenges she has overcome, including a childhood of poverty and disappointments on the track, and explains her hopes for the London games.
When Lolo Jones competes in the Olympics Tuesday, she'll have more than physical hurdles to overcome; she must also confront the memory of a crushing defeat, and the notion that she may be more puff than power.
But the American track star said she already feels she has won the race.
“I feel like I’ve already redeemed myself, you know?” she told TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie. “Stepping on that line for me, it will be about facing my fears.”
Jones may be best remembered for her performance in the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing. As she surged ahead of the pack in the 100-meter hurdles, she clipped the second-to-last hurdle and stumbled out of medal contention.
Earlier this summer, Jones barely secured the last spot on the Olympic team at the U.S. trials. Yet she managed to attract far more media attention than her much faster teammates, Dawn Harper and Kellie Wells.
That has drawn a new round of criticism that Jones is all hype but very little hope – for gold or any medal.
A New York Times article last week charged that Jones receives far more publicity than any other American track-and-field athlete in London not because of achievement, “but on her exotic beauty and on a sad and cynical marketing campaign.”
“Essentially, Jones has decided she will be whatever anyone wants her to be – vixen, virgin, victim – to draw attention to herself and the many products she endorses,” the Times article said.
One pundit in the story even compared Jones to Anna Kournikova, the former Russian tennis player who received more attention for her looks than her skills, which are average.
Jones, 30, also has garnered attention for her very public vow to stay a virgin until marriage, a pledge she has shared with her Twitter followers.
“This is my path, and I was just sharing a part of my life,” she said.
When Guthrie asked Jones whether her life is an open book, Jones laughed and agreed it was.
“Maybe I should, like, zip it,” she said.
Jones said she has an easy time finding dates. More difficult, she said, is finding a good companion.
“I do have a hard time finding that I want a date that has good morals, that’s willing to wait,” she said.
Until then, she relies on the support of her family, including a sister who helped pull her out of her self-proclaimed “meltdown” following her performance at the U.S. trials. Her family also has helped her through a series of injuries, back surgery and doubt by outsiders that she lost her competitive edge.
Jones assured everyone that she still has “that fire” when she runs.
“With every step, I’m just beating out the problems of my life.”