Iowa native, former Louisiana State University track star, Twitter sensation, and current Team USA track and field Olympian Lolo Jones has advanced to the semifinals in the women’s 100-meter hurdles. One day after celebrating her 30th birthday, and the New York Times published an article that strongly criticized her, Jones took to the track earlier this morning, winning her heat.
Jones has received extensive media coverage on her road to this year’s Olympic Games in London after a devastating loss in the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics’ 100-meter hurdles final. Jones was set to take home the ’08 gold when her lead foot hit the second to last hurdle, immediately dropping her to 7th place.
A self-proclaimed virgin and outspoken Christian, Jones’ return to the 2012 Olympics comes just one year after undergoing spinal surgery to repair a tethered spine. After overcoming so many obstacles, Jones is an underdog who has inspired many fans, but writer Jere Longman is major exception. Longman wrote the Times article that was published this weekend, entitled “For Lolo Jones, Everything is Image.” The article suggests the extensive media coverage on Jones is not due to her athletic talent but based on her “exotic beauty and on a sad and cynical marketing campaign.”
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.
Longman’s article also goes on to compare Lolo Jones to much-maligned tennis star Anna Kournikova. Both athletes have been criticized for receiving publicity solely based on their appearance.
Deadspin’s Isaac Rauch has made a counter-argument that Jones does not control what the media covers, noting she “isn’t an assignment editor.” Although soaking up most of the media attention may annoy other Team USA track and field athletes, Jones’ run for redemption story is arguably quite compelling.
Winning her first round heat with a time of 12.68, Jones spoke emotionally, addressing her haters and telling NBC “it’s hard to be positive all the time when so many people doubt your abilities.”
Follow Carrie Healey on Twitter @CarrieHeals.