Lolo Jones confessed that her hope of qualifying for the World Championships “looks not good right now” on Saturday, but she’s been in this position before.
Jones, one of 10 Americans to compete in both the Summer and Winter Olympics, finished fourth in the 100m hurdles at the Adidas Grand Prix in New York on Saturday, clocking 12.95 seconds.
That time won’t nearly be fast enough to make the U.S. team for August’s World Championships, which will be the top three finishers at the U.S. Championships in Eugene, Ore., next weekend, plus defending World champion Brianna Rollins, who has a bye into Worlds.
But consider where Jones is coming from. The 32-year-old hurdler/bobsledder underwent right shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum in November and tore her left hamstring in April, pulling out of the Drake Relays.
On Saturday, Jones said she was in a wheelchair a month and a half ago.
“Doctors said I wouldn’t even have a shot to even run before USAs,” Jones said. “I’m very blessed to get four races in.”
The Adidas Grand Prix marked her fourth competition in eight days across three countries. She previously competed in France and Norway, her best time a 12.93, ranking tied for 14th among Americans this year.
“It looks not good right now, but you know USAs [National Championships], crazy things happen,” Jones said after finishing fourth at the Adidas Grand Prix.
Like in 2012. Jones entered the U.S. Olympic trials coming off 2011 spinal surgery and two hamstring tears. She was the eighth-fastest American that year going into the trials at Oregon’s Hayward Field.
“Everybody’s like, no chance she’ll make this team,” Jones said, “and I snagged the last spot.”
Jones finished third at the 2012 trials, .04 ahead of dreaded fourth place, to make the three-woman team.
In London, she did finish fourth, missing a medal by one tenth of a second, four years after leading the Beijing Olympic final going into the penultimate hurdle, clipping it and falling to seventh place.
The U.S. may be deeper in the 100m hurdles than any other track and field event, which ups Jones’ challenge to make the Worlds team. Of the world’s 16 fastest times this year, 14 were run by a combined six different Americans.
The U.S. has a legitimate shot to sweep places one through four at the World Championships and is perhaps favored to do so, especially with Olympic champion Sally Pearson of Australia out following a broken wrist. Three other times has one nation taken the top four spots in a single event at Worlds, the last in 2011.
“USA’s been deep for a while now, though,” said Jones, who trains in Baton Rouge, La., with early-season breakthrough Jasmin Stowers, the only woman to go sub-12.50 this year, and doing so three times (12.35, 12.39, 12.40). “It doesn’t matter if it’s four deep or eight deep, that’s the same because they really only take three [to Worlds].”
Jones’ chances of making another Olympic team may be stronger for Pyeongchang 2018 than Rio 2016. She’s open to returning to bobsled after the Rio Games, a feeling reinforced by a recent International Bobsled Federation rule change cutting the maximum weight for women’s sleds and crew by 66 pounds.
“I was always kind of on the fence,” about returning to bobsled before the rule change, Jones said. “So that makes me very valuable right now because I’m 133 pounds. Before, the bobsled athletes would each have to lose about 10 kilos [22 pounds], but if they now choose me, they don’t have to lose as much.”
Before the rule change, Jones had set and achieved a goal of gaining about 30 pounds more than her track weight to compete in bobsled leading into the Sochi Olympics, where she finished 11th with pilot Jazmine Fenlator.
Now, she won’t have to scarf double bacon cheeseburgers and pour down milkshakes if she wants to go back to the Winter Games.
“I kind of like eating hamburgers,” Jones said. “That’s actually the lure of the sport.
“I’ll go back [to bobsled] if they need me. I love competing still. Just take it year by year. But what I love about my bobsled teammates is the fact that they absolutely told me after the Winter Olympics, they said, ‘You take these next two years and focus on Summer Olympics.’ They didn’t put any pressure for me to come back, but they said, ‘We absolutely want to see you back if you’re willing to come back.'”