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.
“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.