Coming from humble beginnings to set the current world record in the women’s 100 m hurdles, Olympian Lolo Jones has defied many odds to achieve her status of track and field star. So much so, that she was tipped to win the 100 m hurdles at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but took a disastrous fall just short of the finishing line. For the positive Iowan, however, this was just one of many hurdles she would eventually be able to put behind her.
From life’s great hurdles…
Lori ‘Lolo’ Jones was brought up by her single mother in a family of six. The difficult circumstances of her childhood led to several house and school moves as a young child. This pattern eventually brought her to her first important crossroad in life: choosing between moving once again with her family, or pursuing her track and field dream.
Jones’ decision to chase the dream paid off both on the track and in the classroom, and is a testament to her impressive work ethic. Living with foster families and attending both Theodore Roosevelt High School and, later, Louisiana State University (LSU), Jones’s inspirational diligence earned her exemplary academic grades (including a degree in economics), and record-breaking performances in both the 60 and 100 metre hurdles. The cello-playing athlete left LSU an eleven-time All-American champion, setting the pace and expectations for her incredible future career.
…to the hurdles on the track
Jones’ campaign to go professional did not come off to a great start, however, when she failed to qualify for the Athens Olympics in 2004. Heart-broken and short of cash, she even contemplated ending her hurdles career before it had begun, and putting to use her economics degree in a steady nine-to-five job. But her coach, Dennis Shaver, had other ideas. With his help and vision, Jones came second in her first ever professional meet in Stuttgart. Her amazing 2006 campaign showed the world that this was a golden girl to be reckoned with.
By the end of the same year, she was ranked fourth in the US and seventh in the world. In 2007, she came first at the World Indoor Championships in Valencia, Spain and her continued solid performances earned her a place on the US team for the World Championships in Osaka, Japan. In 2008, she came second in several European meets, won in Düsseldorf and even set a meet record there. In the same season, she became USA Outdoor and Indoor champion.
2009 saw mixed fortunes for the ambitious 27-year old. Following a hamstring injury in April, Jones hurried her re-hab and crashed out of the US Championship semi-finals. Her technical plunge meant missing out on the World Championships in Berlin – but all was not lost.
On 20 July, Jones turned it all around at the women’s 100-metre hurdles in Rethimno, Crete. In spite of it being her fifth race in a week, Jones took charge of the track – and her competitors – from the very start, winning in a world-leading 12.47 seconds. With a personal best of 12.43 (Beijing semi-finals), Jones now knows anything is possible.
Run Lolo, run
The remaining 2009 season has seen Jones collect further credit at the London Grand Prix (third place), in Monaco (also third) and second place in Stockholm. A full return to form thus seems apparent and perhaps we have yet to see this charismatic athlete peak.
Jones’ hard work off the track also continues, as she spreads her own infectious brand of enthusiasm with acts of charity to her old school, and cash donations to various causes. Indeed, among her many impressive sports achievement, Jones is also the proud bearer of the title ‘Visa Humanitarian Athlete of the Year’ for her significant contributions to flood victims in her native Iowa. A recipient of good will and charity herself, Jones knows perhaps better than most the importance of giving back.