Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones says she is "crushed" over being "ripped to shreds" by the New York Times in an article, "For Lolo Jones, Everything is Image," which appeared shortly before she finished a disappointing fourth in the 100-meter finals.
Jones indicates the article, which claims she "earned" her star power "not on achievement but on her exotic beauty," played a part in her poor performance.
“I think it was crazy just because it was two days before I competed, and then the fact that it was from a U.S. media (outlet),’’ Jones told NBC's Savannah Guthrie, noting she expected the U.S. media would support her. "Instead they just ripped me to shreds.”
"I work six days a week every day for four years for a 12-second race,” she continued, as her voice quavered. "The fact that they just tore me apart -- it was just heartbreaking.”
The NYT article also quotes the director of the International Centre for Olympic Studies at the University of Western Ontario, Janice Forsyth, who likened Lolo to Anna Kournikova -- the former tennis player whose looks outshone her "relatively meager" athletic prowess.
“It’s really a sad commentary on the industry Lolo is in,” Forsyth said, by way of the contentious story. “Limited opportunities are there for women to gain a foothold unless they sell themselves as sex kittens or virgins for sale.
"I don’t know if this is Lolo being Lolo or part of a marketing scheme to remain relevant in an Olympic industry where if you are not the Olympic champion, you are nothing.”
Forsyth is, of course, referring to Lolo's "coming out" as a 30-year-old virgin.
Lolo seemed to take particular offense with being dubbed the "Anna Kournikova of track."
“I have the American record. I am the American record holder indoors, I have two world indoor titles,” Jones told Today. “Just because I don’t boast about these things, I don’t think I should be ripped apart by media. I laid it out there. I fought hard for my country and I think it’s just a shame that I have to deal with so much backlash when I’m already so broken-hearted as it is.”
As much as scholars may infer that Lolo sets the wrong example as a "sex symbol" with little athletic substance, the other personal details -- such as her overcoming a homeless childhood -- may set a good example for little girls.
It's a point she brought up during the Today interview: “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 said.
“I went from eighth place and then into fourth place. I just hope that my story gives someone hope,” she added. “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.’’
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