Uh Oh… It’s looking like there’s not a lot of love lost between celebrated virgin track & field runner Lolo Jones and her medal-winning teammates Dawn Harper and Kellie Wells.
In an NBC post-race interview with Michelle Beadle silver medalist Dawn Harper complained that despite her compelling story of overcoming surgery to capture second place in the 100 meter hurdles, the press has continued to push “their favorite” Lolo Jones, who Harper did not mention by name.
The NBC interviewer addressed the situation head on, asking if there was tension amongst the team and naming Lolo specifically. Kellie Wells responded by saying the three girls who made it to the podium were the ones who worked hard and did what they had to do. Which might sound diplomatic if Kellie had managed to keep a straight face and Dawn hadn’t practically high-fived her after the comment.
Lolo finished fourth in the race and now the New York Times is also jumping on her for being long on looks and short on substance:
Judging from this year’s performances, Lolo Jones seems to have only a slim chance of winning an Olympic medal in the 100-meter hurdles and almost no possibility of winning gold.
Lolo Jones has received more attention than any other American track and field athlete based on what some have called a cynical marketing strategy that is long on hyperbole and short on achievement.
Still, Jones has received far greater publicity than any other American track and field athlete competing in the London Games. This was based not on 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.
In 2009, Jones posed sans clothes for ESPN the Magazine. This year, she appeared on the cover of Outside magazine seeming to wear a bathing suit made of nothing but strategically placed ribbon. At the same time, she has proclaimed herself to be a 30-year-old virgin and a Christian. And oh, by the way, a big fan of Tim Tebow.
If there is a box to check off, Jones has checked it. Except for the small part about actually achieving Olympic success as a hurdler.
At the 2008 Beijing Games, Jones led before hitting the 9th of 10 hurdles. She stumbled home in seventh place. To her credit, she stood and answered reporters’ questions with grace, but her career has since ebbed. Anything could happen here, as Beijing showed. Still, Jones is far from a favorite.
She barely made the 2012 Olympic team with a third-place finish at the United States trials. Nineteen hurdlers internationally have posted faster times this year than Jones’s best, 12.74 seconds, including the other two Americans in the field. Not all of those faster hurdlers will compete in London, but enough of them will to seemingly minimize Jones’s chances.
Sally Pearson of Australia is the favorite. Dawn Harper, the reigning Olympic champion from the United States, is also a candidate to win the gold medal, as is Kellie Wells, another American. Yet, Harper and Wells remain in shadow while Jones stands in the spotlight.
“It reminds me of Anna Kournikova,” said Janice Forsyth, the director of the International Centre for Olympic Studies at the University of Western Ontario.
This was a reference to the former Russian tennis player whose looks received far more attention than her relatively meager skills.
“It’s really a sad commentary on the industry Lolo is in,” Forsyth said. “Limited opportunities are there for women to gain a foothold unless they sell themselves as sex kittens or virgins for sale. I don’t know if this is Lolo being Lolo or part of a marketing scheme to remain relevant in an Olympic industry where if you are not the Olympic champion, you are nothing.”
Here’s more on Harper’s story and her frustration, which actually seems to be a legitimate gripe:
Harper, the 2008 Olympic hurdles champion, grew up in tattered East St. Louis, Ill. That city’s famous Olympic athlete, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, was her mentor. In Beijing, Harper had no shoe endorsement, so she ran and won in a pair of borrowed spikes. But all anyone asks about is Jones.
At one point, it was frustrating, Harper said, adding that she resolved the matter through prayer.
“I don’t care what anyone else is getting; I’m excited to be here,” she said. “At the end of the day, you can talk about all that, but you’ve still got to mention my name.”
Yet Harper acknowledged being startled by the extent to which Jones has revealed details about her own dissolute childhood in Des Moines. Her father spent time in prison. Her family lived for a period in a Salvation Army basement. She had a brief and desperate career as a child shoplifter.
“I’ve had family issues as well, but I’m not willing to say all of them just so it can be in the papers,” Harper said. “I don’t want that for myself or my family.”
By the way, Lolo is a devout Christian of Native American, African, French and Norwegian descent — exactly the kind of athlete that is easy to market to American viewers. So while Wells and Harper have a legitimate gripe you already know there are gonna be people who say this just sour grapes and another case of dark skin girls mad the light skin girl is getting all the attention. Do you think it’s poor sportsmanship for Wells and Haprer to be so negative about a teammate?
Should they be beefing like this? Or are they just bringing attention to the fact that Lolo just isn’t that good?