American track star Lolo Jones said she was “heartbroken” by negative media coverage that “ripped me to shreds” two days before her disappointing fourth-place finish in the 100-meter hurdles.
Jones became tearful during an interview on NBC’s “Today” show Wednesday in responding to a New York Times article that argued she had received more attention during the run-up to the London Olympic Games than her accomplishments had warranted.
The article, titled “For Lolo Jones, Everything Is Image,” had argued Jones earned her publicity based “not on achievement but on her exotic beauty and on a sad and cynical marketing campaign.”
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“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.
She said she had expected a U.S. media company to support American Olympians, and “instead they just ripped me to shreds.”
“And I just thought that was crazy because I work six days a week every day for four years for a 12-second race,” she said.
Jones went on to say, her voice breaking, that “the fact that they just tore me apart it was just heartbreaking.”
Four years ago Jones was the favorite to win the 100m hurdles in Beijing, but clipped the ninth hurdle and failed to medal. Jones went on to battle injuries and underwent an excruciating procedure to repair a “tethered spine" ahead of the London Games.
She has spoken openly about her personal life – from a homeless childhood to her struggles to maintain her virginity -- in interviews and on Twitter. In 2009, she posed nude for ESPN the Magazine.
On Tuesday, Jones finished her highly publicized race in fourth place behind defending champion Sally Pearson of Australia and Americans Dawn Harper and Kellie Wells. She missed earning a medal by one-tenth of a second.
Jones told “Today” she was “crushed afterwards” but is lately doing “ok” and trying not to focus on the negativity.
Still, she took issue with being likened in the Times article as the “Anna Kournikova of track.”
“I have the American record. I am the American record holder indoors, I have two world indoor titles,” Jones said. “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.”
She said “putting your heart out there” had opened herself up for “a lot of negativity.” But she hoped to inspire others, she said.
“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 eight 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.’’