NEW YORK — Twice in 2015, Lolo Jones thought her track and field career might be over.
First, when she fought last spring to clock 12.8 seconds in 100m hurdles races, following November 2014 shoulder surgery.
“Normally I can close my eyes and run 12.6, 12.7,” Jones, 33 and one of 10 Americans to compete in both the Summer and Winter Olympics, said while in Manhattan on Tuesday, promoting Orangetheory Fitness. “I was like literally, all-out fighting for 12.8s. I was like what the hell is going on? That’s when I started to hit the panic.”
Her coach assessed video but couldn’t find any technique problems. Doctors and physical therapists took a look at her. Nobody had a solution but to keep running.
So Jones did, except it felt like she raced all season with “a flat tire.”
“At that point, as an athlete, you have to think, OK, well am I done?” said Jones, who has constantly dealt with injuries since transitioning back to track and field from bobsled after the Sochi 2014 Olympics. “Maybe I really burned myself out by doing two sports. Maybe that’s all I had in the tank.”
In late spring, Jones began feeling pain in her upper trail leg as it flopped over 33-inch hurdles in races. She knew it wasn’t a torn hamstring — Jones has suffered six to eight of those — so she worked more on hip strength, thinking that part of her body was weak.
At the U.S. Championships in June, Jones hit two hurdles and walked off out of lane eight halfway through the 100m hurdles final. The top three finishers made the World Championships team. Jones, who was 10th overall in the semifinals, ended her season soon after Nationals.
She briefly returned to bobsled training in September, hopeful that the previous month off would have healed her hip. But she still felt pain pushing sleds and decided then to get an MRI.
It turned out that Jones had another torn labrum, this time in her left hip.
“When they told me I needed surgery, it was almost as if somebody told me my career was over,” she said. “I knew how long it took me to recover from my shoulder [November 2014 torn labrum surgery], and I couldn’t lift weights until March . That puts you too much in the hole.”
Jones was on a bike six hours after the Oct. 15 surgery, posting Instagram video but leaving out the part where she almost passed out from over-exertion.
She then visited the U.S. Olympic training center in Colorado Springs for the first time in an 11-year post-collegiate career and took full advantage.
Three workouts per day. The first set included somebody else slowly moving her left leg for 30 minutes at a time. On crutches, Jones asked other athletes to carry her lunch and dinner trays at the on-campus cafeteria. Appointment after appointment with recovery and rehab specialists.
Jones learned she had allergies to eggs, potatoes and Bordeaux, her arthritic 11-year-old silver Weimaraner with a Twitter account.
“I can have a dog around, I just can’t pet it,” she said. Bordeaux will live with Jones’ mom until after the Rio Olympics.
The accelerated recovery led Jones to hurdle for the first time in December and schedule two races already this month — despite doctors telling her in the fall that she wouldn’t be able to compete until the spring.
She might show up at the U.S. Indoor Championships and World Indoor Championships in March, both in Portland, Ore.
She’s returned quicker to running from a hip surgery than from a shoulder surgery.
“Which is crazy,” Jones said.
The focus is on July and the Olympic trials in Eugene, Ore., where Jones is set to line up in arguably the deepest event in U.S. track and field.
The 18 fastest 100m hurdles times in the world last year were shared by five Americans, though the U.S. was shockingly shut out of the medals at the World Championships. Jones was the eighth-fastest American in 2015 while running with that flat tire.
Regardless of if Jones can make her third Summer Olympic team by placing top-three at trials, she still has designs on making her second Winter Olympic team in 2018.
Jones said she plans to compete in bobsled in the 2016-17 season, which begins three months after the Rio Games, with an eye on the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Games.
Jones said she’s not worn down by age and surgeries as much as her well-known Olympic finals, hitting the penultimate hurdle while leading at Beijing 2008 and taking fourth at London 2012.
“Not the injuries so much as coming so close to a medal,” she said. “That’s energy-depleting.”
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