Lolo Jones will soon be coming to a TV screen near you, courtesy of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Bold, courageous, determined, and yes, even amazing, all describe Lolo and her remarkable journey. Armed with a megawatt smile, she could capture anyone’s attention with just her beauty and personality. Behind that smile, though, is a fierce competitor. The travails this young woman has endured would've broken most.
Lori was born on August 5, 1982, in Des Moines, Iowa. She was raised by her single mother also named Lori and as she grew older, the family bestowed the nickname "Lolo" on her to help differentiate between mother and daughter. The family endured difficult times, at one point even living in the basement of the local Salvation Army. Lolo managed to excel academically and discovered sports, specifically track and field. While in high school, she was named the Gatorade Midwest Athlete of the Year while setting state records in the 100m hurdles.
Louisiana State University (LSU) and its storied track team, coached by Dennis Shaver, was Lolo's next destination. He coached her to three national championships and recognition as an 11-time All-American. In both the 60m and 100m hurdles, Lolo is in the top three in school history. She went on to earn a degree in economics. Pretty impressive, right? Well, this is where the story gets amazing.
The winds of success fully in her sails, Lolo prepared to realize her lifelong dream of competing in the Olympics. Unfortunately, she failed to qualify. When thoughts of quitting and putting her economics degree to work crossed her mind, her former LSU coach helped her get back on track (no pun intended). With more heart and determination than money, Lolo was back competing and winning. While simultaneously working at The Home Depot and being a waitress, Lolo set an American record and won back-to-back USA Indoor titles in the 60m hurdles.
Lolo qualified for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and was the favorite to win the gold in the 100m hurdles. I remember watching the race. Lolo was in the lead with only the last hurdle to clear, when she tripped and finished in seventh place. Watching her on the track crying uncontrollably was an unforgettable moment.
What would happen next in this epic journey? Well, it seems we really can learn more from losing than winning. In 2009, Lolo won the USA Indoor Championship and in 2010, the World Indoor Championship in the 60m hurdles. She also discovered she had a spinal condition that required surgery. She had the surgery in 2011, and has recovered fully. Lolo even qualified for a berth on the 2012 London Olympic Team with a third-place finish at the recent Olympic trials.
Earlier this year, Lolo also made headlines when she announced on Twitter that she was a 29-year-old virgin. She further proclaimed that remaining a virgin has been the most difficult part of her life. More difficult than training for the Olympics, more difficult than enduring the financial hardships of living in a single-parent household, more difficult than rehabilitating from spinal surgery. This bit of information has created a media stir, to say the least.
One has to congratulate Lolo, though. Enduring as a virgin for 29 years as a highly visible, accomplished, beautiful woman is truly amazing. Now the focus switches back to track and field. Will Lolo fulfill her childhood dream and win gold in London this summer? We'll have to wait and see. In my book, she's already proven she’s as good as gold.
Images courtesy of Sfgate.com, Nbcolympics.com
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