Friday, August 22, 2008

My Weekend Crush

The Olympics really don't belong to the winners. Sure, they get the medals and the media, the magazine covers and the Wheaties box. They get the glory and the gold. But the Olympics really belong to the losers. After all, there are more of them. In fact, nearly everyone who comes to the Olympics leaves a loser. They won't take home any precious metal. But they're the ones who make that metal truly precious. Because it is in that depth of disappointment that we often see a person's true mettle.

In these games, few have shown us more than Lolo Jones. Her story is custom made for those soft-focus profiles with lilting soundtracks that television producers adore. She came from poverty. Her family lived in the Salvation Army basement for spell. She went through depression. She fell at the trials in 2004 and failed to make the Athens games. Still, through it all, she kept her focus. She worked minimum wage jobs. She was the first in her family to graduate from college, earning an economics degree from LSU. And, earlier this year, the girl who was once homeless went back to her high school in Des Moines and donated $3,000 to repair its track. She later gave her $4,000 prize money for winning the 2008 Olympic trials to a fund for a single mother who was a victim of the recent Iowa floods.

So in Beijing everyone expected her to win, wanted her to win the 100-meter hurdles. Through the first nine hurdles it looked like she would do just that. And then, then her right foot didn't make it over all 33-inches. She clipped the top of the penultimate hurdle, lost her balance and – in that split second – lost the gold. In fact, she lost any medal, finishing seventh. Afterward she fell to the track on her knees. No words were needed to explain her emotions. Yet, after letting it sink in that her life's work may forever go unfulfilled, she got up and walked over to the cameras. She smiled; she made no excuses. “It's hurdles,” she told the eager microphones, “and if you can't finish the race, you're not supposed to be the champion.” Everyone wants to be the champion. Still sometimes it's the losers like Lolo Jones who show us how to really win. Happy weekend, all.

12 comments:

Nanc Twop said...

Nice article.

And I agree, it was hard to watch her run and not wish those hurdles had been just an inch shorter.

Anonymous said...

She also said in an interview later (and I'm paraphrasing) that during the Athens Olympics she was at home crying on her couch...here in Beijing, she's crying on the track...hopefully next Olympics, she'll have made it even farther.

Cool story!

Anonymous said...

yeah, i guess it could be hard for sports people when they make mistakes on big game.

i feel sorry for that happen...
hope she gets something she wants.

Slym said...

Lolo Jones is a true champion in her own right and in every sense of the word. I can totally relate especially since I've been a professional athlete for more than half of my life. I know what it takes, I know exactly how she must have felt and I have the deepest respect for her. She'll be just fine.

Ms. S. for choosing her as your WC and to bring her to the fore like this, I applaud you. Truly admirable!

TheWeyrd1 said...

dang.

ElevenEleven said...

That's one of the few races I watched (as a Briton) and truly wished for someone other than the British competitor to win. Lolo deserved that win.

The other one was the Women's 5000m final. I was so 'Kara Goucher, go go go!' in that one heaven knows why... ;)

rocketdyke said...

just seeing this photo makes me want to cry. i wanted her to win so much, and i was so sad hearing about what happened that i almost couldnt even watch it that night. i went to bed wondering about how sad she must have felt leaving the track that night, knowing how close she had been to her goal. :(

also, im almost relectant to bring the sentimental appreciation and inspiration down to this level, but lolo jones is *hot*. seriously.

medyani said...

Very nice tribute, eloquent and well chosen (I knew nothing about this woman prior to reading this). Sometimes I think your posts should be disseminated to teenage girls, to provide inspiration and empowerment. Well done.

Emily said...

Definitely well deserving of the recognition and praise before, during, and hopefully after these Olympics. A true champion indeed.

karen said...

Lovely story. Thanks so much for sharing this... and the grace and dignity she displays will carry her much further than any old medal ever could.

jennifer from pittsburgh said...

The sprints this year broke my heart. I wanted Lauryn Williams to shine, but it was not to be. Then I quit watching altogether, and Caty got the absolute WORST documentaries on Netflix, so my last week or so with TV has been contentious.

Karin said...

I cried with her when I saw that race. Broke my heart. Here's to hoping she'll be in London in 2012 and won't clip a hurdle.