One of the sport’s brightest stars knows that she is needed now more than ever.
The new Oakley ads featuring Lolo Jones hit the stands this spring. The photos of Lolo are crisp black and white, taken as a part of the Oakley ad campaign. In the shots, Lolo stares intently back at the camera, eyes aglow, hot light bouncing off her outfit.
The picture looks like a sports goddess figure, a female superhero. All kidding aside, as far as pro track goes – and the current pro sports world in general right now – Lolo Jones as sports’ guardian angel might not really be all that far off.
Think about what has gone down in pro track circles in the last twelve months: the Mario Jones drug admission, Tim Montgomery, the Trevor Graham Trial, the Dwain Chambers debacle.
While the world’s greatest sport will always win out in the end, these blights have been made worse by the frenzied media. None of the aforementioned events will ever stop any hardcore track & field fan from watching, loving, and following the sport. However, the media has and will continue to seize upon the sport’s issues, looking to pounce on headlines and blowout stories about arrogant, spoiled, drug using athletes. The antidote? Lolo Jones.
Lolo will tell you straight up that she is a reminder that if people believe in something and in themselves that they can do anything. Look at her. She hit a hurdle in 2004 and in the process failed to make the Olympic Team. But Lolo got back up and has since landed two fab sponsors in Asics and Oakley. The 5 foot, 9 inch regular girl from Des Moines, Iowa made it. And she’s had the opportunity to live out some of her wildest dreams.
Lolo hardly needs us to act as her public relations mouthpiece, but nonetheless, it’s hard to deny her All-American, mom-and-apple pie package. She’s easy to champion. In putting together this interview, she was exceedingly pleasant and cooperative. Even so much as following up to make sure that everything was done in order to hit my deadline.
On top of everything, Lolo can run. She is the reigning World Indoor Champion and currently lays claim to 12.57, the fifth fastest time in the world this season. This time puts her in the discussion of the world’s top hurdler.
We caught up with Lolo to talk about her place in the sports world, the Olympic Trials, and one of the most difficult times in her life….
PRJ: Win or lose, what’s the best race you’ve run so far?
LJ: The best race this yearwould have to be when I ran 7.77 indoors. That’s when people began to associate my name with the all-time great Gail Devers. So far outdoors, I've hit my personal best three times now! So I can’t really say a race outdoors. Hopefully the Olympics!
PRJ: Do you think you’ve run as well as you are capable of?
LJ: No. What athlete does though? The moment I think that is the moment, I will cease progress. I honestly can see 12.4, but the moment I hit that, I know I will say to myself I can hit 12.3 and etc.
PRJ: Is there any other hurdler that you’ve been particularly impressed with this season?
LJ: World indoor record holder Susanna Kauller. Her technique is very impressive and she has just good clean hurdling.
PRJ: Grading your own racing from A to F, what would you give yourself and why?
LJ: I would give myself a C plus to B minus. I say this because sometimes my lead leg kicks out to the side and my arm will get long on occasion.
PRJ: I’ve heard you bring up the rough times in ’04 and ’05. How do you think it has affected you and the way you look at track and field?
LJ: Well coming out of college, I wasn’t like the Jeremey Wariners or Sanya Richards who signed a six figure contract. After I didn’t make the team in '04, I was broke and essentially without a job. I had my fresh degree in Economics and Spanish, but I knew if I would’ve gone out and got a 9 to 5, that would have been the end of track. So instead, I choose to work two flexible part-time jobs and train. It was hard. I had to live off of credit cards and sometimes it was embarrassing. Now I look back and I am just humble and thankful for those times. I can ride in my car to practice and not have to worry about how I am going to get to practice. I can help provide for my family and others and not worry about if someone can help me. The biggest thing is I see is a lot of the rookies coming out of college every year. Some of them look just like I did four years ago. Confused. Not knowing if they should pursue their dreams or get a job. I just can relate and tell them about my own past experiences.
PRJ: A lot of success has come to you after weathering some storms in the sport?
LJ: A lot of the times I complained and was very depressed while weathering the storms in the sport. But what I have learned is that the storm is what helps give you victory. I would compare it to lifting weights. When you lift weights it is hard and heavy. The weights break your body down, but in the end they make you strong. So storms seem to break you down when you are in them, but they make you strong when you come out.
PRJ: Who is your biggest competition going into the Olympic Trials and what can we expect to see from you performance wise in Eugene?
LJ: Well, normally this is an easy question. This year is quite different as World Outdoor champ Michelle Perry and U.S. Outdoor champ Ginnie Powell have both been hurt and not competing. So, I have no clue where they are in their training. So I would just say that I am my biggest competitor. As that is the case for most athletes anyways. Getting not only over the physical hurdles but the mental ones as well.
PRJ: Right now the sport world is going through a series of negative story lines—NBA ref Tim Donaghy, Marion Jones, Michael Vick, the Trevor Graham trial, and track and field is dealing with some of its own issues. You seem to be the natural antithesis of those things.
LJ: It’s crazy. I really never thought their decision to cheat would effect me, until one day I introduced myself to someone at a track meet. The person looked at me weird for awhile and fnally said, "your not that one that cheated are you?" I got associated with a drug cheat, because I have of one of the worlds most common last names in Jones.
Also, it’s an Olympic year and track is always in the prime time viewing. I just found out that the prime time Olympic sports will be Swimming and Gymnastics, not Track. Those are just little things, but the reality is that there are athletes sitting at home who got second to Marion or other drugs cheats. It's frustrating and heart breaking to know that they will never receive that moment in their life . No one wants to receive their medal via fedex.
PRJ: After missing the ’04 Olympic squad, what would making the ’08 Olympic Team mean to you and your family? You danced in Boston after winning the Visa Indoor Championship series title.
LJ: It's universal. Even a person who has never competed in athletics before, can understand what a great honor it is to have a chance to represent your country and fellow Americans. So it would just be a huge honor to represent my country. A huge honor.
Thank you for making this interview happen and we wish you the best at the Olympic Trials and with the rest of your season.
By Jay Hicks.