Lolo Jones

Lolo Jones re-energized after emotionally stressful bobsled season

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Lolo Jones lacked motivation to return to track and field after the Sochi Olympics, but her recent travel log shows she’s over it.

Jones cleared hurdles on three continents last week.

On June 8, she won a 100m hurdles race in a season’s best 12.74 seconds in Marrakech, Morocco (video here). It wasn’t a major meet, but the field included World Indoor 60m hurdles champion Nia Ali, Olympic bronze medalist Kellie Wells and Kristi Castlin, who was the co-world leader two weeks ago.

Jones then moved to China for an exhibition race on a TV show against a local celebrity. Jones had to run over 10 hurdles, while the celebrity only had to clear one.

“I dominated,” Jones said. “I probably should have let him win. I feel bad.”

Jones then went through another unique experience. She opened her Diamond League season at the Adidas Grand Prix in New York on Saturday, one day after landing from a 17-hour flight from China.

Jones said she was on the bubble to get into the meet initially because other hurdlers have faster times than her this season (it was a slow start as she dropped more than 20 bobsled pounds after Sochi). When a lane opened up, she jumped at the chance after not getting into a Diamond League meet in Rome on June 5. And even though she was already booked for the Chinese TV spot.

She did well in New York considering the tiring circumstances, finishing third in 12.77 seconds behind Queen Harrison and Dawn Harper-Nelson.

“I felt great over five [hurdles], and then I was like, all right, I feel you jetlag, you win,” Jones said. “I’ve never done anything like this before.

“I was actually nervous something bad would happen,” said Jones, who joked she saw a mirage of 20 hurdles at the start line. “This [third place] is good. I’ll take this.”

Jones, 31, is transitioning back to track and field after cutting her season short last July 4 to focus on making the Sochi Olympic Team in bobsled. She made it to Russia and finished 11th, becoming one of 10 Americans to compete in both the Summer and Winter Games.

She called her third Olympic experience emotionally stressful.

“When I got done, physically, I was ready to keep going, but mentally, I was drained,” Jones said. “I kept telling my coach I don’t have any motivation. There’s really no point for this track season. There’s no World Championships. There’s nothing on the line. I’m having a hard time getting refocused. So it took me like two months to really get energized. It wasn’t really until I started competing, I was like, well, my goal for this year will be to compete against myself this year, have a personal best.”

Jones’ best-ever time came in the 2008 Olympic semifinals, a 12.43. She entered the final as a favorite, took the lead after six of 10 hurdles but hit the ninth, falling to seventh place. The winner, Harper-Nelson, clocked 12.54, .11 of a second slower than Jones’ semi time.

In 2012, Jones made the Olympic Team by .04 of a second and finished fourth in the Olympic final.

The last American to make three Olympic teams in her event was two-time Olympic 100m champ Gail Devers, who made five straight from 1988 through 2004 but never won an Olympic hurdles medal.

The U.S. is very deep in the 100m hurdles. There’s the reigning Olympic medalists Harper-Nelson and Wells, the World Indoor champion Ali, the rising Castlin, Harrison and, above them all, World champion Brianna Rollins.

There are seven U.S. women faster than Jones this year (there were four last year), so she has catching up to do.

Jones said her bobsled future is up in the air. If she competes on ice next season, she said it will only be for the early North American portion that concludes in December. She doesn’t plan to at all in 2015-16 as the Rio Olympics near.

“I don’t think I can do a full season because it delays my start for track,” she said. “This year I kept feeling rushed to compete [in track after Sochi], and I’d like to just be able to be on cue.”

One thing bobsled has done is give Jones a greater love for track. She competed in front of a larger crowd Saturday than she did in Sochi (though track meets are more fan accommodating than bobsled races).

“It made me more humble and enjoy more things about track that I didn’t before,” Jones said.

Like pay.

“It makes you appreciate the [track] meets where you’re making like $500,” Jones said. “In bobsled, that may be four races.

“I’ve seen the bottom of the barrel.”

Jones next plans to run at the U.S. Championships in Sacramento, Calif., next week and then determine the rest of her European season. But at the end of a high-mileage week, she could only think of her immediate future.

“I want to sleep now,” Jones said.

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Katie Ledecky beaten by Simone Manuel, still sets two personal bests in 25 minutes

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 09:  Gold medalist Katie Ledecky of the United States poses on the podium during the medal ceremony for the Women's 200m Freestyle Final on Day 4 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
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The legend of Katie Ledecky grows, even with a defeat.

In one of the greatest short-course-yards doubles in history, Ledecky broke the American record in the 400-yard individual medley and then lowered her personal best in the 200-yard free by a half-second in a 25-minute span at the Pac-12 Championships on Friday.

Ledecky won the Pac-12 title in the 400-yard IM by chopping three seconds off her personal best, clocking 3:57.68 in Federal Way, Wash.

About 25 minutes later, the Stanford freshman nearly came back to beat co-Olympic 100m free champion Simone Manuel in the 200-yard free final. Manuel had to cut .58 off her 200-yard free personal best to edge Ledecky by .13. Full results are here.

Manuel led by .99 after the first 50 yards, but Ledecky closed 1.2 seconds faster than Manuel in the final 50 yards. It marked Ledecky’s second defeat in a freestyle final longer than 100 meters since Jan. 18, 2014. Manuel also beat Ledecky in a 200-yard free in November.

Still, Ledecky chopped .54 off her 200-yard free personal best, touching the wall in 1:40.50.

Their anticipated rematch in the NCAA Championships in three weeks should be the event of that meet.

But the 400 IM may be more intriguing come the summer. Ledecky’s last 100 yards of freestyle in Friday’s final were 4.06 seconds faster than runner-up Ella Eastin.

The NCAA 400 IM is in a 25-yard pool. Internationally, the 400 IM is in a 50-meter pool.

Ledecky has never raced the 400m IM at a major international meet and scratched out of the event on the eve of the Olympic Trials eight months ago. She ranked fifth in the U.S. in the event in 2016 but never raced it fully tapered.

Her time on Friday was faster than the 400-yard IM personal best of Maya DiRado, who took Olympic 400m IM silver in Rio and then retired.

Ledecky could conceivably try and race the 400m IM this summer. At nationals in June, the 400m IM final is on a night where Ledecky would have no other finals. At worlds in July, the 400m IM comes on the final day of the meet (as opposed to the first day at the Olympics), also on a night where Ledecky would have no other individual events.

Earlier at Pac-12s, Ledecky lowered her American record in the 500-yard free by 1.31 seconds on Thursday, swimming faster than Ryan Lochte‘s personal best at the same age.

The Pac-12 Championships conclude Saturday.

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Michael Phelps ‘would probably do’ another Olympics if not for injury risk

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Michael Phelps said he would probably swim another Olympic cycle if it wasn’t for the possibility of injury, particularly with his shoulders.

“If you could guarantee me that I would never get injured in four years, and I would never have any problems with my shoulders or anything like that in four years, I’d probably do it again because I had more fun this time around,” Phelps said in a social media video Friday. “But I don’t want to risk that and not be able to spend time with Booms [son Boomer] when he grows up and watch him and be a part of every single part of his life when he gets older and older. So I think that’s something, for me, that I will never put my body through. I won’t take that chance. I think my body is way more important and my family is way more important than going another four years to swim in one more Olympics.”

Phelps’ right shoulder was a particular issue in his comeback for the Rio Olympics. He received two cortisone shots in the months before the Games, leading coach Bob Bowman to say that Phelps was “75 percent” of what he was at the 2008 Beijing Games, according to Sports Illustrated.

(Phelps has said he didn’t compete at 100 percent in Beijing, given an October 2007 broken wrist that interrupted training.)

Phelps reiterated, repeatedly as usual, during the 70-minute video that he would not return to competitive swimming. He still swims recreationally “for peace of mind” and “meditation.”

What about retirement saddens him?

“Not having the chance to represent my country anymore is something bums me out,” Phelps said, particularly hearing the national anthem atop the medal stand.

Phelps has plenty to keep him busy. The most pressing is testifying at a congressional hearing looking at improving the flawed anti-doping system in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

“I have a lot to say,” Phelps said. “To have that opportunity to speak out about my true feelings. I’ve never really, truly been able to do it.”

He began outlining those words Friday and said he had until Sunday to finish a page or a page and a half to present to the subcommittee.

“There are too many people who are cheating, that’s the easiest way to say it,” Phelps said. “Look what happened at the [Rio] Olympics, all the athletes that tested positive that were still allowed to compete. I think that’s wrong, and I think it’s unfair. I think that’s something that needs to clean.”

In Rio, Phelps praised teammate Lilly King‘s criticisms of athletes competing who had previously served doping punishments (such as King’s breaststroke rival, Russian Yuliya Yefimova). Phelps doubts he has ever competed in a clean race.

“I think you’re going to probably see a lot of people speaking out more,” Phelps said in Rio, according to The Associated Press. “I think [King] is right, I think something needs to be done. It’s kind of sad today in sports in general, not just in swimming, there are people who are testing positive who are allowed back in the sport and multiple times. It kind of breaks what sport is meant to be and that’s what pisses me off.”

Phelps said Friday that he hopes to help “clean the sports up so we can get back to why we play sports.”

“I don’t think any athlete should ever have that feeling that somebody else is at an advantage of using a performance-enhancing drug to help them,” he said. “I had these massive dreams and goals of things I wanted to accomplish and achieve, and never were they because I thought I could take an easy way by cheating. I basically just worked as hard as I could and made sure that my body was as prepared as I could possibly make it for every single meet. So I was able to accomplish the goals and dreams that I had. That’s something that I’m going to Congress to talk about.”

Phelps also added in Friday’s video that he hopes another swimmer will come along and break his records, that he was recently knocked out of a poker tournament by his wife and he will be in Budapest for the world championships in July.

Just not as a competitor.

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