The second-to-last hurdle

“You hit a hurdle about twice a year where it affects your race,” said Jones, tears welling up in her striking green eyes. “It’s just a shame that it was on the biggest race of my life.

“The hurdles were just coming up very fast and I just told myself what I always tell myself, ‘keep things tight’.

“But it’s kind of like when you are racing a car and going max velocity and you hit a curve, either you can maintain control or you can crash and burn. Today I crashed and burned.”

Jones was a how-can-you-not-root story at the Olympics, from living with her three brothers, a sister and single mother for a time in a Salvation Army basement in Des Moines, while her estranged father drifted in and out of jail.

“Sometimes I think we get tested to see what we’ll do,” said Lori Jones, Lolo’s mother who watched tearfully during the semifinals and anticipated more emotion as she talked just before the final. “We’ve definitely been under a big test as a family.”

Lori Jones, Lolo’s sister, Angelia Jefferson, and others cheered from Section M, Tier 3, Aisle 653, Row 18 as Jones roared toward the medal podium with two hurdles remaining.

The view turned from celebration to stunned.

“I think our childhood comes into play a lot making her the person she is,” Jefferson said earlier in the night. “Everything happens for a reason — and for whatever reason, we had to endure a lot as children.

“It made us survivors. No one deserves this more than her.”

It was a devastating moment for a quiet Des Moines girl who vividly remembers working her first job at the Iowa Bakery Cafe, near 41st Street and University Avenue.

Amazingly painful for a girl who attended eight schools in eight years and lived with three families in high school as her single mother worked two jobs and bounced between two states to support her family while her father was in jail.

Amazingly painful for a woman who stuck with track after failing to make the 2004 Olympic team — living on ramen noodles and no air conditioning in triple-digit Louisiana heat to chase a dream.

Minutes before entering the stadium Tuesday, Jefferson said of her mother: “She’s ready for the tears.”

“There’s been enough of those,” Lori Jones said. “It’s time for something good to happen.”

The Lori Joneses in the family — the elder and “Lolo” — separated in 1998 when mom moved to another part of Iowa for personal reasons.

“It was hard,” said Lori Jones, whose supervisor on the overnight shift at a Baton Rouge, Wal-Mart allowed her to come to Beijing despite being out of vacation time. “I had to walk away from my baby. We were always together. That’s the first time I had to leave her.

“I had managed to keep us all together. But she was doing so good in high school that I didn’t want her to leave.

“She was on her way — and I knew she was on her way. I knew.”

“Today is hard, tomorrow is going to be harder” Jones said.


About this entry