If the Olympics had an event for marketing yourself, Lolo Jones would be the gold medal favorite. The 29-year-old Louisiana State grad has the highest profile of any American track and field star, thanks to magazine covers, TV appearances (including her recent revelation that she's still a virgin) and a frank, funny presence on Twitter (@lolojones, with more than 125,000 followers at last count).
She's no slouch on the track either, having overcome a childhood that included periods of poverty and homelessness to become an NCAA champion and later a two-time world champion in the indoor 60-meter hurdles. She made the 2008 Olympic team in the 100-meter hurdles, a feat she will try to duplicate at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Track & Field, which begin Friday in Eugene, Ore. (See below for the schedule of coverage on NBC and NBC Sports Network.)
Four years ago Jones was heavily favored to win the Olympic title in Beijing. She looked flawless in the preliminary rounds and in the final she appeared to have the gold locked up until she smacked the ninth of 10 hurdles. Momentum lost, she finished seventh, heartbroken. It is a moment that still haunts and motivates her. "I've done so many other races, yet people always want to bring that Beijing failure up," Jones says. "I learned a lot from it, so I try not to get defensive or shy away."
Jones has faced other challenges since Beijing, most notably a spinal cord injury that required surgery last August. She opens up about that ordeal, the Beijing nightmare, her childhood struggles and how running for LSU transformed her life in the poignant ESPN Films documentary SEC Storied: Lolo Jones, which airs Saturday as part of ESPN Sports Saturday (4/3c, ABC). That's the same day as the 100 hurdles final at the Olympic Trials, where Jones will look to nab one of three slots for the London Games. Six of the 10 fastest women in the world this year are Americans, including defending Olympic champion Dawn Harper, so competition will be fierce. "They're always saying that we're leaving somebody behind that could medal at the Olympic Games," says Jones. "That's how deep the field is for U.S. hurdlers. It's a dogfight." Or just another hurdle to overcome.
The television schedule for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials — Track & Field:
Friday, June 22 (9/8c, NBC Sports Network)
Saturday, June 23 (8/7c, NBC)
Sunday, June 24 (7/6c, NBC)
Monday, June 25 (9/8c, NBC Sports Network)
Thursday, June 28 (9/8c, NBC Sports Network)
Friday, June 29 (6/5c, NBC Sports Network)
Saturday, June 30 (9/8c, NBC)
Sunday, July 1 (7/6c, NBC)