10 Things You Didn’t Know About Olympic Hurdler Lolo Jones [VIDEOS]
Of all the US athletes set to participate in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, none have captured our hearts more so than Lolo (real name Lori) Jones. And why not?
The track and field star plans to go for gold after a disappointing loss in Beijing in 2008 and she's been part of an ongoing media blitz that includes TV appearances, magazine covers and social media. (The fact that she's a beauty doesn't hurt, either.)
As a way to familiarize yourself with Jones, check out 10 things you may not have known about her below.
Fast Facts About Lolo Jones
Jones was born on August 5, 1982 in Des Moines, Iowa, and has five siblings. She's five feet, nine inches tall and weighs approximately 140 pounds.
She Had a Tough Childhood
Jones had a single mother, also named Lori, who struggled to support the family by holding down two jobs. They were poor and moved frequently. In fact, Jones attended eight different schools in eight years. Her father, meanwhile, was noticeably absent, spending most of her childhood in the Air Force or state prison.
As a way to get by, the family relied on food stamps and shoplifting. Jones herself stole frequently and said she even became a professional "frozen dinner thief" by the sixth grade.
The family was so impoverished that they were once forced to live in the basement of a Salvation Army church. Jones was so ashamed that she reportedly crept out each morning at dawn so no one would see her.
But She Overcame
When Jones was in high school, her mother announced that the family would relocate once again. However, Jones refused to move to a district where there was no track available. So, she lived with four different mentoring families and pursued her dream of being a track and field athlete while attending Theodore Roosevelt High School in Des Moines.
While there, she excelled academically, was named the Gatorade Midwest Athlete of the Year and even set a record at the Iowa state track meet with a mark of 13.40 seconds for the 100-meter hurdles.
Eventually, Jones attended Louisiana State University and became a NCAA champion in the 4x100-meter relay and the 60- and 100-meter hurdles. Despite her disadvantages, she graduated as an 11-time All-American and a six-time SEC champion.
She Wants Redemption in London
Jones was favored to win the 100-meter hurdles at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, but she clipped the ninth hurdle at the end of the race and finished in a disappointing seventh place. Teammate Dawn Harper won the gold instead and Jones was heartbroken.
"I was shocked. My mind was numb,'' she said. "I worked so hard for this, and it disappeared in less than a second.
In other words, Jones has something to prove in London.
But What are Her Chances?
Unfortunately, Jones has been struggling during the Olympic trials. She barely earned a place on the US squad and some critics say her celebrity is overshadowing faster, more capable runners like Harper. To put things in perspective, she currently has only the ninth fastest hurdle time in the US this season.
Plus, there's some question whether she has her head in the game. Jones was reportedly plagued with self-doubt before the trials and had her sports psychologist, pastor and mother all on speed dial ready to provide counsel. To make matters worse, she had spinal surgery last season and two hamstring tears this year that required “extensive treatment.”
So, can Jones live up to the hype and earn a medal when she attempts the 100-meter hurdles again? Only time will tell if she'll emerge in true underdog fashion.
Yes, She's a Virgin
If the 29-year-old is best known for anything, it's her now-infamous reveal on Twitter that she's a virgin. Athletic prowess aside, fans and the media are fixated on the fact she's decided to wait for sex until married as part of her Catholic faith, a decision, she says, that hasn't been easy to maintain.
"I want to wait until I'm married to have sex ... It's just something -- a gift -- I want to give to my husband." she said on HBO's 'Real Sports.' "But, please, understand this journey has been hard ... It's the hardest thing I've ever done in my life, harder than training for the Olympics, harder than graduating from college."
But Jones is capable of finding humor in her effort to remain chaste. "If they're making a sequel to 'The 40-Year-Old Virgin,' I am their candidate," she said.
She's Unlucky at Love
You'd think that a catch like Jones would have no trouble finding a man. Not so, she says. Her virginity makes it difficult to date and often puts men off. "You get judged a lot, a lot of guys won't return your calls after they find out," she said.
She's reportedly even tried dating via the internet, but that didn't pan out either. "I did eHarmony and it didn't work out," Jones told Jay Leno on 'The Tonight Show.' "I've tried it all. Right now I'm just seriously focused on the Olympics."
Still, Jones may have found her perfect match in fellow virgin Tim Tebow, but only if they have a date at a safe location. "I'm pretty sure I'm just going to invite Tebow to church," she said. "It's a 100% way of not getting rejected. I'm totally just going to invite him to go to church."
Jones is a devout Evangelical Christian who often prays before competitions and regularly espouses her faith online. After qualifying for the Olympics, she wrote: “Wow! Nothing is impossible with God! Honored to represent The United States at the 2012 London Olympics."
Still, Jones is able to temper religion with her desire to be an all-star athlete. "ill put God 1st as long as He's not actually running the hurdles in Olympics," she tweeted.
She Gives Back
Since she was raised in poverty, Jones is no stranger to charity. Because of this, she's made several donations in Iowa over the years.
In 2008, she gave each girl on the Roosevelt High School track team a new pair of Asics running shoes and donated $3,000 for the purchase of indoor hurdles and repairs to the school's track. She also donated $4,000 in prize money to a fund for Renee Trout, a single mother from Cedar Rapids who was devastated by the Iowa flood of 2008. Both Asics and Oakley -- two of Jones' sponsors -- matched the money, bringing the total donation to $12,000.
More recently, Jones teamed up with Procter & Gamble to donate $25,000 to the P&G Team USA Youth Sports Fund. “I’ve been receiving help from charities and other assistance programs since I was young so it was only natural for me to give back,” she explained.
She Bared All for ESPN the Magazine
In 2009, Jones posed nude for ESPN the Magazine and some argued that the provocative image ran counter to her Christian morals. While Jones admitted the photo shoot made her "uncomfortable," she didn't apologize for the pic, pointing out that it showcased her physique and "how hard I worked for those muscles."