Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
American hurdler Lolo Jones had a rough road to the Olympics, and the media didn't make it any easier. In a tearful interview, the track and field star -- whose gold-medal dreams were crushed when she finished fourth in Tuesday's 100-meter hurdles -- said she was devastated by the negative press she received before the race. Watch the heartbreaking clip below
Jones, 30, triumphed over an impoverished childhood, spinal cord surgery and two hamstring injuries to race in the London Olympics. But despite her twelve years of training and many professional accomplishments, the media focused mainly on her good looks -- leading to a brutal backlash against the athlete. A Saturday New York Times piece comparing her to Anna Kournikova (the tennis player known more for her looks than her athletic prowess) affected Jones most of all.
"I think it was crazy, just because it was two days before I competed, and then the fact that it was from the U.S. media," an emotional Jones told NBC's Savannah Guthrie. "They should be supporting our U.S. Olympic athletes and instead they just ripped me to shreds."
"I worked six days a week, every day, for four years for a 12-second race and the fact that they just tore me apart, it was just heartbreaking."
"They didn’t even do their research," Jones added, pointing out that unlike Kournikova (who has never won a WTA singles title), she is a two-time champion and record holder in her field.
"I am the American record holder indoors, I have two world indoor titles. Just because I don’t boast about these things, I don’t think I should be ripped apart by media," the hurdler said through tears. "I laid it out there, fought hard for my country and it’s just a shame that I have to deal with so much backlash when I’m already so broken hearted as it is."
Even though she narrowly missed getting a medal, Jones was still a fierce competitor. Tuesday's race was not only the fastest women's hurdles race in Olympics history, but it was Jones's best race of the season. Sadly, it's the second time she has narrowly missed getting a medal, having famously fallen from first place to seventh when she stumbled over a hurdle at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. But Jones has no regrets.
"Putting your heart out there, obviously it opens you up to a lot of negativity, but at the same time if I could just reach somebody out there... Maybe there’s a little girl who thinks she can be an Olympic athlete and she sees all the things I struggled through to get here," Jones told Guthrie. "Yeah, I didn’t walk away with a medal or run away with a medal, but I think there’s lessons to be learned when you win and lessons to be learned when you lose."