Lolo Jones: The "three-time losing Olympian" Seeking redemption at the Beijing 2022 Winter Games

An uncharacteristic mistake denied Jones a medal in athletics at the Beijing 2008 Olympics, but after reinventing herself in bobsleigh the American hopes to return to the Chinese capital for the 2022 Winter Olympics and win the prize.

By Andrew Binner
Picture by 2013 Getty Images

There is a certain sense of irony that Lolo Jones is targeting the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics as her chance at sporting redemption. For it was in the Chinese capital that the American suffered her most disappointing moment as an athlete.

The USA star was favourite to win the women's 100m sprint hurdles at the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics, but tripped on the penultimate hurdle and finished in seventh place.

Thirteen years later, Beijing now represents her chance to atone for that mistake, as she targets that elusive Olympic medal as a bobsledder at what would be her fourth Olympic Games.

Beijing 2008 Olympic heartbreak

Despite growing up in poverty with a father that spent much of her childhood in prison, Jones was destined for big things in the sports arena.

The Iowa native secured three national indoor athletics titles from 2007-2009 and World Indoor Championships gold in 2008, before winning the 100m hurdles at the 2008 World Athletics Final.

Quite simply, she was in the form of her life going into the Beijing 2008 Olympics and was the heavy favourite to win the track gold.

But in the final she clipped the penultimate barrier and ended up finishing seventh. She immediately dropped to the track, unable to comprehend what had just happened.

"I didn't have enough energy to get up and walk off because I was gutted," Jones told People.

"I went back to my room in the Olympic Village, cried, read my Bible and just thanked God for the opportunity to run.”

Lolo Jones was distraught after finishing seventh in the Beijing 2008 100m hurdles final.
Picture by 2008 Getty Images

Lolo Jones: The reinvention

But far from wallowing in self-pity, Jones decided to try something new.

After being introduced to bobsledding by three-time Olympic medallist Elana Meyers Taylor, Jones decided to become a duel athlete.

It is a rare kind of sporting talent that can perform at an elite level with success in both a winter and summer sport concurrently.

Despite gaining some weight for bobsleigh and having spinal surgery, Jones won another 60m hurdles World Indoor title in 2010 and qualified for the London 2012 Olympics. She once again made the 100m hurdles final but agonisingly finished fourth.

That disappointment was short-lived however, as in October 2012 she was named in the USA bobsleigh team.

A few months later Jones, alongside Taylor, helped the USA win mixed team gold at the 2013 IBSF World Championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

That performance helped the former hurdler get selected for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, where she and Jazmine Fenlator finished 11th in the two-woman sled.

Over the next four years she focussed on making the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

But more heartbreak was to follow.

With only two sleds qualified from Team USA, competition had never been more fierce and Jones missed out on selection.

Aja Evans and Lauren Gibbs were chosen as the two brakewomen, the latter earning a silver medal alongside Meyers Taylor.

Returning to athletics

Jones decided at the time that she would not try for another Winter Olympics.

That decision was made easier by the fact that her athletics career was far from over.

In 2015 Jones won the 100m hurdles at the North American, Central American and Caribbean Championships in Costa Rica, and after her PyeongChang snub she decided to try and qualify for Tokyo 2020 instead.

However, when the COVID pandemic forced the event to be delayed by a year to 2021 Jones was left in a precarious position. As an older athlete, that extra year would greatly damage her chances of track qualification.

She revealed in her autobiography ‘Over It’ that she felt ‘robbed’ of the chance of finishing her hurdles career the way she wanted.

Given that her body-shape was now better suited to bobsleigh, she decided that she would have a better chance of making one more Olympic Games by focusing on Beijing 2022.

“I never wanted to go back to bobsled after my push for the 2018 Olympics. I walked back in those doors and I felt like I was returning into a den of fire.” Jones to NY Post.

Maiden bobsleigh World Cup victory

It turned out to be the right decision.

In 2021, Jones won gold in the World Championships event alongside Kaillie Humphries, the driver that led Canada to Olympic gold in 2010 and 2014, before switching allegiances to the USA in 2019.

That victory not only proved to Jones and her doubters that she belonged in a bobsleigh at this level, but it breathed new life into her dream for a fairytale ending to her Olympic career.

"I'm a three-time losing Olympian," 39-year-old Jones said of her journey back to Beijing.

"Winning a medal is still extremely important. Returning to Beijing and winning a medal would be redemption. But another way I can have redemption, even if I don't make the team, is knowing that I pushed my body and my mind to its fullest — that I gave it my all."

“I hope it’s an inspiration to others to keep pushing, and never give up.”

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