Lolo Jones: 'I Have Already Faced Failure'
Haters love to give Lolo Jones a hard time -- and sometimes, it's hard to say exactly why. The three-time Olympian hasn't won an Olympic medal yet, but what she has accomplished so far, few on this planet can claim.
For starters, Jones is one of only 10 Americans to compete in both a Summer and Winter Olympics. She's made two Olympic appearances in hurdles (placing seventh and fourth in 2008 and 2012, respectively) -- then served as one of the brakewomen on the U.S. bobsledding team in 2014, finishing eleventh with driver Jazmine Fenlator. Along the way, she also earned three world titles in the two different sports -- with two world indoor golds in the 60-meter hurdles, and another gold as part of the USA bobsledding mixed team in 2013.
If the 33-year-old Iowa native accomplishes her goals, she'll compete in another two Olympics -- Brazil this summer and South Korea in 2018 -- before her career is out. And oh yes, she'd like to earn at least one Olympic medal along the way.
In 2016, Jones is going into her Rio bid still recovering from hip surgery in October. Her first big comeback race takes place at the Camel City Elite meet in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on Jan. 30, just three months after going under the knife. We recently met up with her for lunch in NYC to get the scoop on her recovery plan, her road to Rio, and how she keeps her head in the game even when her body and naysayers are telling her to quit. Here's what she had to say.
Instead of taking a vacation, I just moved on to the next sport after London. I did two sports for two years and I never took a break. I think that was just too much on my body and it caught up with me. In 2015, I had one of my worst years after my shoulder surgery in October 2014. I had multiple hamstring tears, and missed two months of races due to injuries. Reporters called for my retirement. Internet trolls mocked me. It was the first time in a long while that I hadn't been ranked top 10 in the world.
When the doctor said I needed hip surgery, I thought he was telling me that my career was over. I had a torn hip labrum in my left hip last November. Surgeons had to go in to repair and shave down part of the bone that was impinged. This was my third major surgery in recent years. It was the first time in my career that I thought, I don't know if I can try this again. Mentally, I was breaking down. I love running and had a desire to go for Rio in 2016, but the setback was mentally draining. It messed with my confidence. In my mind, I couldn't imagine how I could come back quick enough. And after so many surgeries and attempts at the Olympic medal, I had a lot of anxiety and seriously thought about quitting.
It was hard to stop the pity party. I had moments when I cried and wanted to give up. When people were celebrating the one year out to Rio, I was stressing, Oh my gosh, I can't even run right now. I went through the typical stages of feeling sorry for yourself. Why me? Why did this happen? None of that made me feel better.
What stopped that cycle was having a timeline and a goal. Doctors wanted me off crutches in six weeks. I thought to myself, Alright, why not go for five? For me, I had the Olympic countdown. Taking note of my progress made me feel better. One day I could barely walk with the crutches, then suddenly I was running with them. Having my mobility back was a really great feeling -- way better than sitting around saying I'll never get through this.
I changed everything this time -- including my rehab. Last time, after my shoulder surgery, I focused on yoga and Pilates to help me recover. I see the benefits in those workouts, but I'm a runner. I needed to get my heart rate up. So I started going to Orangetheory Fitness. What was great about their group classes is that everyone exercised together regardless of their fitness level. So a beginner could train alongside an Olympian. I wasn't Olympic caliber post-surgery, of course.
But I was able to get in those high-intensity, heart-pumping workouts -- running, rowing and weightlifting -- so that when I returned to training with my Olympic training group in mid-December, my coach was really amazed. My stomach is usually the last thing that comes into shape for me, but my core already looks like all I've been doing is abs. My body is looking really good right now.
They say I recovered faster than any other athlete who had hip surgery. Originally, I was told that there was absolutely no way I could recover in time for the indoor track season. I had crutches for about three weeks and then I started the process of walking to jogging to running. I started doing two to three workouts a day. I was back jumping over hurdles within two and a half months of surgery. Recovery went so well, I'm having my first pro race at the end of this month. I think God allowed me to have this breakthrough.
I can breathe better now, too. When I was at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado post-surgery, I had a hard time breathing. I thought it might have been the altitude. But when we did some tests, we discovered that I was allergic to a lot of things that I never knew. For example, I'm allergic to dogs and I have a Weimaraner named Boudreaux. He's with my mom now.
Shellfish and potatoes were also on the list. I was eating sweet potatoes every day because they're a superfood. That was the first allergy test in my life, so who knows if I developed these allergies later or I've been battling through it this whole time. I've been breathing out of one nostril for so long. Now I take five different meds a day so I can breathe better.
Bobsledding made me tougher. After our first two runs at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, there was no way we could make up the deficit. We were too much in the hole -- but we still had to come back the next day to finish it. It was the first time that I had to line up to a race that was already lost. I had to push off and compete as if winning were an option, though it wasn't.
It proved to me how mentally tough I am, that I could pour my heart into a sport in the face of failure. This helps going into Rio, where people are saying, 'She's been injured, she's too old, she should throw in the towel.' I have already faced failure. I know what it's like to lose before getting to the start line. I know what it's like to be ridiculed in the public eye. You've got to continue to pursue your dreams even when it hurts. It's not how you start, but how you finish.
Olympic medal or not, I'm proud of what I've done. When I'm on Twitter and see people teasing me for not having a medal, it baffles me. I don't think they understand how hard it is to make an Olympic team. The 2012 London Olympic team was a really hard team for me to make. I'm not gonna say I didn't cry after just falling short of medaling, but the next morning, I was really proud that I got fourth. It was the fastest 100-meter hurdle race in Olympic history. At many other Olympic Games, my fourth-place time would have earned me a medal. That's just bad luck.
But I have no regrets. In my mind, I know that I've done really good things in running. Whether I get a medal in Rio or not, I know I gave as much as I could.