Just prior to the start of her 2011 season, 100-meter hurdler Lolo Jones visited The Fast Life to discuss her career, shoe company and ultimate goal of winning Gold at the 2012 Olympics.
Bouncing back from an injury-shortened, disappointing 2011 season is a task the 60-meter hurdle American Record holder is knows well and faces once again staring into the Olympic year of 2012. “I use my failures as inspiration. There is no greater motivation than when you are going for something, and then,” pauses Jones to jokingly question, “I guess I can say this ‘a hurdle’ gets in the way.”
Return from disappointment has been a mainstay of Jones’ career after failing to qualify for the Athens Olympics in 2004 and responding with a US Olympic Trial wind-aided record time of 12.29 in 2008, and winning a World Indoor Championship Gold Medal as well as a National Outdoor Championship in 2010 after an injury stifled glory in 2009.
“For me, it’s just inspiring to overcome a failure, a defeat, when even your body is like ‘no you are not going to do this right now’. For me to come back, get back on solid ground and fight harder; I think that’s what it’s all about,” explains Jones adding that “Sometimes even in life, it’s just not about the gold medals or the victories, it’s just about fighting a good fight, staying your ground, not giving up.”
On March 13th of 2010, Jones repeated as World Indoor 60-meter hurdle Champion in Doha and in the process broke the previous American Record of 7.74 set by Gail Devers on March 1, 2003. “The American Record,” exclaims Jones, “I’ve been fighting for that since I started running professionally. I was like ‘really can I beat Gail Devers’ American Record?’” Despite pursuing the record, Jones’ recording setting run of 7.72 actually came as I surprise to her. “I tried every year to get it and it just happened at the least expected time because I barely made the World Championship Team,” explains Jones who “beat Damu [Cherry] by .01” to take “the second spot to go to the World Championship Team.”
While in Doha, Jones admits to having to “turn things around quick” and being “frustrated because it was something that I really wanted, to defend my title, but at the same time I had had a string of bad races, and bad performances, I was injured in ‘09; so I just wanted to kind of shut the doubts that I wasn’t a one hit wonder and I just didn’t run fast in ‘08.”
After Doha, Jones continued to experience success in 2010 realizing all first place finishes at the Oslo, Doha, Gateshead, and Monaco legs of the Diamond League while setting a 100mH world leading time in New York at the Adidas Grand Prix in June. “I was so strong at the beginning and then my middle was amazing,” says Jones who reveals toward the end of her season, “I was fatiguing … I was the only hurdler that put as much emphasis on indoors as I did outdoors; I ran the most races; I started my season earlier so I could be ready for World Indoor Championships ... because that’s where you represent your country; that’s where you get the flag for your country, you get the medal for your country. The fact that I came away with my first gold, I was more than thrilled. I’ll take my World gold medal and American record any day over a Diamond League trophy.”
Thrills continued for Jones in September of 2010 off the track as well after completing her first global campaign with her shoe company, Asics. “That was definitely unique because normally athletes don’t have time to do the global campaigns because we have our track meets and competitions, so whenever they can make it work for an athlete to be in the actual photo shoot, I mean, I was super thrilled and I was so excited to do it,” elates Jones.
“Oh, that is a great question,” states a reactionary Jones when asked about the athlete’s involvement in the actual manufacturing process of her shoe, “because I didn’t know the answer to this question until a year ago when they flew me out to Japan and I saw all the technology that goes behind these shoes.” The Olympian comically likens herself to “a very rich lab rat” when breaking down the Asics laboratories research experience. “They had cameras set up to watch when I ran, they had these cameras set up to watch every angle my foot would hit the track to make sure the padding was hitting in just the right places and the support was where I needed it to be; They had monitors on the shoe and sensors to see how my foot was reacting to each part of the shoe,” details Jones.
Also known for her track apparel, Jones discloses a secret when asked about her famous, well-received black tuxedo uniform. “So many people want me to wear that; and I actually have two versions of it; I have the black version…and then I have the white one which has never been revealed.”
While track uniforms tend to be more revealing than concealing, after a .01 second defeat to Perdita Félicien, Jones jokingly has an additional apparel enhancement, “They determine the winner by where the chest crosses the line, so, clearly if a girl is a bigger cup size, she’ll have an advantage; but, I always say if she has to carry it over the hurdles and she beat me at the end, hats off to her. But I don’t think Asics is going to put any padding in their uniform. It would be genius if they did that to help out some of the less fortunate,” amongst which Jones counts herself.
Jones, now an LSU graduate with an economics degree, also counted herself amongst the less financially fortunate as a youth. “I grew up with so much help other people from the community, from church,” explains Jones who remembers, “So many people [helping] support my family when we were down and out.” Something that does not go unforgotten amongst a far more fortunate Jones of today. “When you’re giving, for me, it’s one of the happiest times I am in my life, because . . . the fact that I can help out other people, it just really gives me joy and passion.” Jones has donated to single mothers affected by Iowa Flood of 2008 as well as delivered Asics track shoes to her alma mater Roosevelt High School.
Returning to her own backyard in 2010 also proved to be equally rewarding for the Des Moines, IA native winning a 100-meter hurdles national title at the USA Outdoor Championships. “Anytime I run back home, it’s a lot of pressure!” says Jones adding “the fact that the last two years returning home I wasn’t able to win, so when I won the USA title on home turf . . . it was symbolic, it was just full circle. Definitely, a moment I probably will never forget.”
A memorable fall on the final hurdle of the 2008 Olympic 100mH final in Beijing is a moment Jones would certainly love to forget, but for her, the sport proves to be more mental than physical at times explaining, “Once you get past the physical, then it becomes so mental. I’d say after your fifth or seventh race when you get that groove in, I wasn’t even thinking because I had so much I confidence because I was just on a groove, it was just so natural so easy, [but] once you get a little knick in that head and start having doubts, then you’ll be at the starting line with a million questions.” Toward the end of the 2010 season in early August, Jones questioned eating a slice of her birthday cake, which she ultimately denied herself. “Yeah, well, I should have ate it,” regrets Jones, “because I still lost the race, so I should have at least enjoyed a piece of cake.”
Jones had been well on her way to enjoying a widely anticipated Olympic Gold medal before clipping the final hurdle in 2008 and thus beginning the excruciating four-year purgatory awaiting Olympic redemption at the Summer Games in London 2012.
And in that ill-fated span of 12 Olympic seconds, Jones had invested a lifetime encompassing a seesaw of emotions. “The whole process of everything,’ Jones explains, “from not making the team to making the team, to now four years later, I’m still trying to get back to the Olympics and get my medal,” is a “journey” taking “me eight years for 12 seconds, and now I’m working on 12 years for one race, one 12 second race, one medal,” adding, “It’s been a very difficult one, but it’s not a journey I will ever give up or forget.”
At the end of interview, the ever witty and comically Lolo participated in a segment entitled “Get Up or Get Out” involving comical matters surrounding herself.
FAST LIFE: Four letter network cuts away from a national championship to show the end of a baseball game.
LOLO: Get Out. Didn’t like that.
FAST LIFE: Marriage proposal from Houston Texans wide receiver Jacoby Jones whose pitch is ‘You don’t have to change your last name’.
LOLO: Get Up! I like my last name!
FAST LIFE: Fried turkey training on Thanksgiving.
LOLO: Get Up! That was great! It was eating and working out at the same time!
FAST LIFE: Professional baseball players wearing women’s track uniforms
LOLO: I thought that was a Get Up. He texted me and told me to take it down immediately so I guess it was a Get Out.
FAST LIFE: Performing the hair whip dance after winning the World Championships.
LOLO: Any time you celebrate after you accomplish something, Get Up!
FAST LIFE: Hiring Mexican fútbol announcer Andrés Cantor to yell Goooooooold!!! After winning the Gold Medal in London 2012.
LOLO: Well sure go ahead Get-Up! I’ll be freaking out!