Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Lolo Is a No-Go

After all the hype and expectations, track star Lolo Jones made it to the final of the 100-meter women's hurdles at the London Olympics . . . but she came in fourth, just short of being on the medal podium.  (Australian hurdler Sally Pearson won the race, with Americans Dawn Harper and Kellie Wells respectively winning silver and bronze.)  Despite her personal pride in running her best at the hurdles race, the press has been dismissing Jones as an athlete of more showiness than accomplishments, though she pointed out that she holds the American indoor track record and has two world indoor track titles.  It's just too bad that the 100-meter Olympic hurdles race was held outdoors.
Jones's tearful interview with Savannah Guthrie on NBC is likely being dismissed as well, as I'm sure many observers will see it as more proof of her self-absorption.  But let's be fair, she was good enough to make it to London and make it into this race.  She just wasn't good enough to win, and she knew it.
The complaint about Jones as that she's been hyped and pumped up as a major player thanks to all the endorsements she accepted and, let's be honest, her good looks and her life story, but there are plenty of good-looking athletes with sob stories worthy of packaging on American television.  Jones was offered all those endorsements because she was expected to win.  Jones may be satisfied with her accomplishments, but the problem is that no one remembers who came in fourth.  
Jones espouses the belief of Baron Pierre du Coubertin, who started the modern Olympics, in the importance of taking part rather than to win.  Also, given her medical history - she had spinal surgery in 2011 - she lives up to Baron du Coubertin's belief that the struggle in life is more important than the triumph.  Unfortunately, Baron du Coubertin was full of crap.  Because if you struggle to take part, you'd better win.  I don't want to seem like I'm picking on Jones, because she's been through a lot already.  Having said that, I need to add this: I don't know if this loss in London will hurt Jones's standing as an athlete, but it's already hurt her standing as a pitchwoman.  
And why hasn't Dawn Harper, who won the 100-meter hurdles race in Beijing, gotten any endorsements?
It's not because she's black, is it? 
As for Jones, who famously tripped over a hurdle at Beijing, she turns 34 the day the 2016 Olympics open in Rio de Janeiro. Whether or not she can come back from her hurdle foibles the way Gail Devers did is unknown.  It's possible she can come back in Rio, but it's not likely. 
And one other thing . . . Jones told Guthrie that the New York Times, which bashed her in a recent article, should instead "be supporting our U.S. Olympic athletes."  Umm, it's not the job of the American press to cheer for athletes just because they're American.  It's the job of our press, including sportswriters, to call it as they see it. 

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