Lo Lo Jones, Gold Medals and Lost Luggage, by Bob Ramsak

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One of the rising stars in our sport is Lo Lo Jones. Here, our intrepid Bob Ramsak catches up with Lo Lo less than a week before the Golden League begins in Berlin, Germany, on June 1, 2008..

TRACK PROFILE Report #756
29-May-2008

AFTER WORLD INDOOR GOLD, JONES LOOKING TO GAIN RESPECT

By Bob Ramsak
(c) 2008 TRACK PROFILE Report, all rights reserved

BERLIN – After Blanka Vlasic won the world high jump title last summer, Croatia Post honored her with a postage stamp. After winning her world indoor title in the 60m hurdles in Valencia, Lolo Jones recalls receiving a complimentary meal - once.

"In the USA it's all about football and baseball," Jones said soon after her victory in the 100m hurdles in Hengelo last Saturday. "But some people do recognize me. One time I got a free dinner."

No respect.

While hardly a household name in U.S. sporting circles, Jones, who's been a steadily rising force in the hurdles since her college days at Louisiana State, is attracting respect among her rivals, and attention among track fans.

For one, prior to races, she'll be introduced as world indoor champion. "It does kind of put a spotlight on your lane. It's a definite change."

Her challenge now is transform her 2008 indoor success to the full distance outdoors as she continues her steady climb through the ranks. That too, she said is heading in the right direction.

"After indoors we really started hammering some hurdles," she said. "Some serious workouts. Indoors helps you a little bit because you get that first five and you already have a little rhythm in. Then it's just about maintaining it over the next five. So indoor's helped a lot."

She's raced four times this season, winning three. At the Doha Super Grand Prix in Qatar earlier this month, she ran a 12.65 season's best, despite a rough early going in the race.

"Doha was a mess because Josephine [Onyia] and I got tangled up," she said. Her victory in Hengelo, where she clocked 12.87 against a strong wind, didn't make for an ideal opportunity to run fast, either. "Here the strong headwind didn't help," she said. Nonetheless, she thinks that her 12.56 career best is ready to fall. It'll have to, if she has Olympic ambitions this year.

Jones believes that it'll take a performance of 12.60 or better to make the U.S. Olympic team next month in Eugene, which is why she's excited about her early-season European mini-tour. Tonight she's at Belgrade's Artur Takac Memorial, Sunday in Berlin, next Friday in Oslo, and the following Thursday at Ostrava's Golden Spike before she heads home to Baton Rouge to finish her pre-trials prep work.

"I think it's good that I came to Europe and run a whole bunch of races back-to-back, so I can get my rhythm. I can't do that in the U.S. right now, since there's only a couple more meets. So I just love to come over here and get a groove."

As her strong finish in Hengelo indicated, the second half of her race is quite solid; indeed her most immediate concern is to work on her start. "My start is a little bit sloppy. And maintaining focus over every hurdle, and not getting lazy."

At Berlin's cavernous Olympic Stadium on Sunday, Kallur will face Swede Suzanna Kallur, the hottest hurdler on the circuit post-Osaka outdoors last year, who broke the world indoor record in the 60 meter hurdles. Kallur was a heavy favorite for gold in Valencia last March, but pulled out with injury prior to her semi-final, leaving Jones's dash to gold just a tad bit easier. But Jones insists that she would have preferred to have had Kallur in the race, preferably in the lane next to hers.

"All athletes want to line up against the best athletes. But it doesn't always happen. I would have rather had had her in the race and finish second, and gotten a better time and maybe even have gotten the American record. But that's how it goes."

The Kallur-Jones rivalry dates back to their collegiate days, when the Swede was winding down her standout career at Illinois. Among their major clashes last year was at the world championships where Kallur finished fourth and Jones sixth. In all, they've squared off 20 times outdoors since 2001, with Kallur carrying a big 14-6 head-to-head edge into Berlin.

At Sunday's Berlin DBK-ISTAF meet, changing that tide is also on her to-do list. The 100m hurdles are an AF Golden League event this year, part of the chase for a share of the US$ 1 million Jackpot.

Besides Kallur, who will be making her outdoor debut, the field also includes Jamaican Delloreen Ennis-London, a two-time world championships medallist whose already run 12.54 this season; Doha winner Brigitte Foster-Hylton, another Jamaican who ran 12.56 to beat Jones in Doha; and Spaniard Onyia, the 21-year-old Nigerian-born up-and-comer who has a 12.67 PB from runner-up finish at Rome's Golden Gala last year.

ENDS

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The TRACK PROFILE REPORT is a news and feature service published by the Track Profile News Service. In addition to regularly dispatched news, profile and interview features, subscribers also receive exclusive on-site updates from major national and international competitions, usually within 24 hours. Copyright (c) 2008 by Bob Ramsak and TRACK PROFILE. All rights reserved. Reproduction, republication, reposting and retransmission in ANY form is strictly prohibited without express permission from the editor. Small portions may be reproduced ONLY if accompanied by source citation and *ADVANCE* notice in writing to Track Profile. Please contact the editor at [email protected] for reprint permission. [ Visit www.trackprofile.com for more. ]
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END – TPR #756 - 29-May-2008

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