Training to become a world-class athlete is difficult in its own right. It requires time, dedication and a great deal of confidence. This makes the story of Lolo Jones even more remarkable due to the challenges she faced growing up. Born in Des Moines, Iowa, she was one of 6 siblings raised by a single mother. Her father spent 12 years in prison for homicide, and as a result he wasn’t around during her formative years. But through it all, Jones persevered to become one of the best sprinters in the world and a world-class bobsledder as well. Here are some facts about the three-time Olympian (and counting).
Her elementary school years were an especially difficult time
Because her dad was in prison and her mother had 6 mouths to feed, the family had to spend time living in the basement of a Salvation Army church. Lolo was so worried about being made fun of by other kids that she would wake up early and leave before they could find out. Due to the unstable situation at home, she ended up attending 8 different schools in 8 years.
Realizing her star potential in track and field, she stayed in Des Moines for high school
When Jones’ mom made the decision to move the family to the small Iowa town of Forest City, Lolo was concerned that it would hinder her budding track and field career. As a result, she arranged to stay in the state’s capital where she enrolled in Roosevelt High School. She set the Iowa state track record for the 100-meter hurdles and was named Gatorade Midwest Athlete of the Year. During her 4 years in high school, she lived with four different host families. Aside from helping her thrive as an athlete, they made sure she succeeded in the classroom as well. She graduated as an honors student and even played the cello in Roosevelt’s orchestra.
She was almost an Iowa State Cyclone
Jones had originally planned to attend Iowa State on an academic scholarship, but fellow track star Kim Carson, the goddaughter of her senior year host father, persuaded her to attend Louisiana State instead. Jones had a legendary college track career with the Tigers where she tore up the field in both Indoor and Outdoor track. She won two NCAA titles, was an 11-time All-American and was crowned SEC champion in various hurdling events 6 times.
Failing to quality for the 2004 Summer Olympics almost made her quit for good
Given how well she had done as a college athlete, it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that she’d participate in the 2004 Olympics in Athens. But when Jones missed out during the qualifying events, she told her coach she was hanging up her track shoes forever. But LSU coach Dennis Shaver wasn’t having any of it. He told her, “I’ll see you at practice tomorrow.” Lolo had a change of heart and was ready to continue pursuing her dreams.
Her efforts were finally paying off
In her first track meet as a pro, Jones finished second in Stuttgart. She performed well at the 2006 World Athletics Final and came in first place at a meet in Ostrava. In 2007, she finished first at a pair of meets and 2nd place in three others. It was clear she still had what it took to be a champion.
She came so close, but couldn’t seal the deal in Beijing
Coming off the string of successes at various meets around the world and qualifying for the 2008 Summer Olympics, Jones entered the 100-meter hurdles as the clear favorite. During the finals, it appeared that she was going to win going away, but on the 9th hurdle (out of 10) her foot couldn’t quite make it over. As a result, she stumbled to a 7th place finish. She was completely devastated and could later be seen in the hallway crying and asking, “Why, why, why?” She would go on to qualify for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London as well, finishing 4th in the 100-meter hurdles.
She found a second career in bobsledding
It’s amazing enough to be one of the best in the world at one sport, but Lolo pulled off something that is extremely rare: she proved herself a capable bobsledder as well. She took home the gold in the 2013 World Championships in the mixed team event. She also qualified for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, finishing 7th in the world. She took home the gold in the two-woman event during the 2021 World Championships in Altenberg, Germany.
Jones still shines even as she pushes 40 years old
On March 7, 2020, after a three year absence from track and field, she competed in the Mississippi College meet, winning both the 100-meter hurdles and the 100-meter dash. She fully intends to train for the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo as well as the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.