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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Lawmakers choke back tears, scream at Olympic sport leaders for sex-abuse scandal

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The tears and anger this time came from lawmakers who spent the day fuming over a growing sex-abuse problem in Olympic sports that leaders have taken too much time to solve while devoting too little money for the fixes.

“I just hope everyone here realizes the time to talk is over, and you need to walk your talk,” Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., said Wednesday shortly after choking back tears while questioning leaders of the U.S. Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Center for SafeSport.

The hearing of the House subcommittee was filled with both substance and spectacle — the latter coming mostly courtesy of a five-minute burst from Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., who told the USOC’s acting CEO, Susanne Lyons, “you should resign your position now,” and tore into USA Gymnastics CEO Kerry Perry and the rest of the panel for not uttering the exact words: “I’m sorry.”

“If you don’t want to say you’re sorry, I don’t want to talk to you,” said Carter, who represents the district where a lawsuit that triggered the mushrooming scandal in gymnastics was filed.

In fact, members on the panel of U.S. sports executives did apologize to the victims, whose numbers grow almost daily and whose pain was most heart-wrenchingly displayed during the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, the Michigan State doctor who also worked for the U.S. gymnastics team.

But set against the USOC’s slow-moving reforms, to say nothing of the raw numbers presented by SafeSport CEO Shellie Pfohl, some of the apologies felt hollow.

The USOC started talking about reforming its sex-abuse policy in 2010 after a scandal was exposed inside of USA Swimming. From then, it took seven years to open the SafeSport center to independently investigate sex-abuse claims made by Olympic athletes. Pfohl described an office that has been overwhelmed in the 14 months it has been in business.

— When it opened in March 2017, Pfohl said the center received 20 to 30 calls a month. In the wake of the #MeToo movement and the Nassar case, that has increased to about 20 to 30 calls per week.

— SafeSport operates on a budget of $4.3 million a year, $1.55 million of which was recently added as part of the USOC’s mission to bolster its response to the abuse issue. That brought the USOC’s contribution to $3.1 million. (By comparison, the USOC gave the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, in charge of Olympic drug testing in the United States, $3.7 million in 2016. Its budget is more than $19 million.)

— The budget is enough for 14 full-time employees, which includes five full-time investigators. Seven additional investigators work on a contract basis. The center has fielded 840 reports over 14 months. Reports have come in regarding 38 of the 49 national governing bodies.

— Part of the delay in opening the SafeSport center came because the USOC met reluctance from almost everyone in funding, both from outside and inside the Olympic movement. The NGBs are charged on a sliding scale, depending on their size. USA Swimming contributed only $43,000 this year, “but we’re one of the larger NGBs, and based on who we are, we could provide more resources,” CEO Tim Hinchey said.

Pfohl said she wouldn’t turn it down.

Meanwhile, she is still waiting for paperwork to apply for a $2.5 million grant the government wrote into this year’s budget. (The government gave $9.5 million to USADA in 2016.)

The witnesses testified to a continued lack of uniformity in sex-abuse policies among the NGBs, despite efforts that date to at least 2013. Some publish full lists of banned coaches and athletes. Some distribute them only to members of the organizations. Under terms of a recently passed law to protect athletes, the NGBs are supposed to be audited randomly by the SafeSport center, but that project is hamstrung because resources do not exist.

Meanwhile, the role of the USOC in overseeing it all remains confusing.

Brought up more than once was an exchange during a deposition for a sex-abuse lawsuit in which a USOC lawyer was asked if protecting athletes was a top priority for the federation.

“The USOC does not have athletes,” answered Gary Johansen — speaking to the reality that, except during the Olympics, athletes technically fall under the umbrella of their individual sports.

Lyons said that mindset will change.

“We do hold ourselves responsible, and if there’s a failing, it’s from not properly exercising our authority,” she said.

One of the best examples of the USOC using that authority has been the top-to-bottom housecleaning it demanded from USA Gymnastics.

Most news about the federation’s changes, however, has been delivered in long news releases. Wednesday marked the first time Perry has made public comments since her hiring in December. She left after the hearing without taking questions.

“I’m glad you’re here today, but a lot of people have wanted to hear from you since you took the job,” Dingell said.

But Dingell didn’t really like what she heard — “I don’t hear a sense of urgency,” she said — and she was not alone.

“As compared to how much money a district attorney’s office has, or how much money a Title IX office has at a school, it’s not in the same ballpark at all,” Nancy Hogshead-Makar, Olympic swimmer and outspoken critic of the USOC’s efforts, said of the SafeSport budget. “Shellie desperately needs more money.”

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Lindsey Vonn, Ronda Rousey among athletes featured on Shark Week

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Olympic medalists Lindsey Vonn and Ronda Rousey headline an athlete roster appearing on Discovery Channel’s Shark Week in two months.

They follow Michael Phelps‘ much talked about Shark Week shows last year.

Vonn will appear on a show called “Monster Tag.” Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski are also included.

They “will join forces with top shark scientists to learn crucial information about the ocean’s top predators,” according to Discovery Channel.

Rousey, a 2008 Olympic judo bronze medalist, will dive with a mako shark in “Uncaged: Shark vs. Ronda Rousey.” The title is similar to “Phelps vs. Shark: Great Gold vs. Great White” from last year.

“First, Rousey, in a cage, dives into the ring with several lightweight shark species in the waters off Fiji and then moves onto the main event in New Zealand where she’ll ‘free dive uncaged’ with the heavyweight mako shark,” according to Discovery Channel.

More on Shark Week from Discovery Channel is here.

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