Lolo Jones advance at Olympic Trials

Lori “Lolo” Jones’ Olympic dream is alive and well.
A third-place finish in the 100-meter hurdles at the USA Olympic Track and Field trials Saturday at Hayward Field sends the celebrated Iowa-born, Louisiana-trained, “still pure” athlete to the London Olympic Games, with a crack at erasing her sad memories of the 2008 Beijing Games.
“I woke up this morning and didn’t even think I’d make this team” – she said.
“Now, I’m just thrilled that I overcame all those fears and got there.”
This five-ringed reprise opportunity nearly didn’t happen. Midway through the eight-runner final, Jones seemed out of team contention. But a mighty burst over the final two barriers brought her up to third place, with a 12.80 clocking back of 1-2 finishers Dawn Harper (12.73) and Kellie Wells (12.77.)
A huge rally got her past Virginia Crawford (who ran 12.90) and into that all-or-nothing, go-or-stay-home third position.
The nightmare she’d endured for four years, the trauma she encountered in China, was officially over.
She’ll be able to celebrate her 30th birthday – July 5 – in London, in style.
With the sun finally out after an earlier rain delay, in this place they call “Tracktown USA,” “Lolo” could smile at last.

Lolo Jones advance at Olympic Trials
Lolo Jones.

For four years she has heard about the ninth hurdle. The hurdle that she couldn’t clear, the one that cost her a certain gold medal in the 100-meter hurdles in Beijing, where Lolo Jones was about to have a five-ring coronation, moments before staggering across the finish line like the town drunk.
The 29-year-old Jones, of Baton Rouge, La., remains the glamour girl of American track, a photogenic starlet who graces magazine covers, famous for her compelling back story and her celibate lifestyle, and her ability to get over barriers. She came back for another shot at Olympic glory Saturday, when the weather at Hayward Field vacillated between downpours and sunshine and the emotions vacillated even more.
You want poignance? Unprecedented performance? Bizarre uncertainty? Welcome to the U.S. Olympic track and field trials, where in the span of eight hours you got the greatest decathlon performance in history, by 24-year-old Ashton Eaton. A crushing disappointment for the reigning Olympic decathlon champion, 32-year-old Bryan Clay. And a stunning return to form by Jones.
Oh yes, you also got excruciating limbo for Allyson Felix and Jenebah Tarmoh in the final event of the day, the women’s 100 meter final, the sprinters finishing in a dead-heat (11.068) for the third spot on the team — a scenario that U.S.A. Track & Field does not have a procedure in place to deal with, according to a spokesman.
Tarmoh was initially listed as third, Felix .001 behind at 11.069, leaving Felix, a two-time world champion at 200 meters and eight-time world gold medalist, with her head buried in her arms, crying over a green fence outside the track.
“It just didn’t come together for me” – a tearful Felix said, before learning that even a 3,000-frames-a-second photo analysis could not sort out the winner. By late Saturday night there had been no resolution by USATF officials, as the possibility of a runoff between Felix and Tarmoh, training partners under coach Bobby Kersee, loomed.

Dennis Shaver, Lolo’s personal coach who guided her while she constructed a star-studded career at LSU, knew the challenge to make this Olympic team would be tougher because of the surgery and injures.
He also knew something else.
“She’s a tough person” – Shaver said as he waited for Jones to surface from the Hayward Field track. “She’s not the kind of person you can count out in a pressure situation. I’m not surprised she rose to the occasion.”
The pressure to return to the Olympics intensified to levels even Jones didn’t expect.
Jones became even more of a national name this year with appearances on or in ESPN, HBO, the NBC Nightly News, Rolling Stone and more.
The final days and hours before the pressure-melting final felt like “two married people bickering” – Jones said.
“That’s how every relationship was” – Jones said. “With my coach, my family. (Friday), after the first round, when I ran 13 seconds, I went back in and, as calm as I could, but it was just not — it was like a reality meltdown — I was like: ‘Coach Shaver, I need you to stop lying to me. Do I look bad?’ ”
“It wasn’t that calm. I was actually screaming. I actually threw a shoe. It was a nightmare. I’m just glad I got it all over, and I have a month to prepare for the Olympics.”
Shaver, her coach, pumped as much confidence into Jones as possible.
“I kept telling here experience means something in this meet” – he said. “She’s been here. We knew her best races were ahead of her (after recovering from injuries). And we knew this (Olympic Trials) would be the toughest part.”
“She’s a tough cookie.”
As an on-track interview with Jones over the public address system boomed into the chilled Oregon sky, Angie Jefferson, Lolo’s sister, beamed.
“She’s a fighter” – Jefferson said. “I told her, ‘Nothing has come easy’ or ever been handed to her. She fought.”
Jones wasn’t alone on the track Saturday night.
She was there. But so was her trademark smile.
“It’s nice to see that again” – Jefferson said. “She’s got a beautiful smile, doesn’t she?”

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