“Judging from this year’s performances, Lolo Jones seems to have only a slim chance of winning an Olympic medal in the 100-meter hurdles and almost no possibility of winning gold.”
Ouch. That’s the opening sentence of Saturday’s 1,000-word New York Times article on Jones, which went on to complain that the Olympic track and field athlete “has played into the persistent, demeaning notion that women are worthy as athletes only if they have sex appeal,” then quotes a professor who compares Jones to Anna Kournikova, “the former Russian tennis player whose looks received far more attention than her relatively meager skills.”
The critical piece was published just a few days before Jones competed in the women’s 100-meter hurdle race. Last night, she placed a disappointing fourth — and as the runner told Today‘s Savannah Guthrie this morning, the Times story only added insult to injury.
“They should be supporting our U.S. Olympic athletes and instead they just ripped me to shreds,” Jones said of the newspaper, her voice quivering. “I worked six days a week, every day, for four years for a 12-second race and the fact that they just tore me apart, which is heartbreaking.
“They didn’t even do their research, calling me the Anna Kournikova of track,” she added as tears threatened to spill. “I have the American record. I am the American record holder indoors, I have two world indoor titles. 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, fought hard for my country and it’s just a shame that I have to deal with so much backlash when I’m already so brokenhearted as it is.”
The Times article may have a point; Jones received an enormous amount of media attention in the walkup to the Olympics, much of which focused as much on her looks as her abilities. (EW’s hands aren’t exactly clean here either.)
Her fourth-place finish was actually her fastest time of the year, but it’s not a stretch to suggest that reading the article before competing could have impacted Jones’ performance — as the Times noted, the runner “has acknowledged battling doubt all season.” And if that’s the case, it’s a shame that Jones didn’t follow the first rule of celebrity: Never, ever, ever Google yourself. Well, unless you’re Gabby Douglas.