Lolo Jones experiences heartbreak after Dancing with the Stars elimination

In the last two years, no athlete has been as maligned as Lolo Jones. Her most recent experience on Dancing with the Stars only added to such woes. After Meryl Davis earned first place in the previous season of DWTS, Jones was hoping to carry in her momentum. Of note, Davis and Jones were both members of the United States contingent that participated in the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. Sadly, such momentum was not meant to be.

After suffering so much heartbreak in the 2008 and 2012 Summer Games, the world-class hurdler was hoping that 2014 year would provide redemption. Qualifying for the US Bobsled Team, it had the potential for a remarkable comeback. Instead, she had to settle for an eleventh-place finish.

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Her motivation to appear on DWTS was the chance to prove how hard she worked while hoping a good performance would stop the haters from teasing her. With due deference to Jones, it almost seemed like a no-win situation.

While she has openly talked about not trying to appear sexy, the reality is that she is a beautiful and stunning woman. Considering the outfits that some of the competitors on DWTS wear, her appeal would certainly have emanated. In addition, she would have gained criticism from her haters the moment that she would have faced elimination. Even if she would have won, the haters would have said it was not as important as an Olympic gold medal.

Sadly, ever since Jones admitted to abstaining from intimate relations until marriage two years ago, it has become a topic of gossip that has made the devout Christian a target for unfair ridicule. Obviously, the strain of her choice to remain a virgin along with the frustrations of losing has created in a tragic sense of shame and embarrassment.

The humiliation of the DWTS loss was compounded by the fact that she was the first competitor to be eliminated. Considering that the other competitor up for elimination was 72 years old (and she had the lowest score), it certainly looks unfair for Jones.

With partner Keo Motsepe, the two danced a Cha Cha which resulted in a stiff performance that received very low marks. Of note, Jones called her own performance “awful.” She would also comment afterwards that she had flashbacks of the three Olympics, and in between dances, she was in tears. Although she did not look surprised that she was going home, she was gracious in defeat, signs of a great athlete.

Pouring her emotions in a message on social media, the theme was that she was sick of being a loser. Although she may have been hard on herself by stating that she felt broken, unlovable and embarrassed, she is such an accomplished, world-class athlete, that she is no way a loser. With hopes of returning to the track at the 2016 Rio Summer Games, Jones certainly needs a boost to her confidence.

Whether that comes in the way of a relationship or a sports psychologist that can help her regain her mojo, it is unfair for any hater to define her life by a series of sporting events that are only a small fraction of the bigger picture. Despite being in a difficult place, Jones is an inspiration for others that are suffering from personal struggles. Although bad things do happen to good people, it is how quickly one can bounce back that defines them.

Sporting hero Lolo Jones should be celebrated for her sojourn in Sochi

Having established herself as one of America’s sporting sweethearts, Lolo Jones captured the imagination of sports fans at the London 2012 Summer Games. Despite a heartbreaking finish at London, Jones put on a brave face in spite of unfair criticism by the media. This was worsened by the unfair attack by some of her track teammates who stated her attention was not always in line with her track accomplishments.

Image by Associated Press

Image by Associated Press

With a legion of fans that still admire Jones, it is exciting that her sporting journey has found a new path. Although Jones still has plans to compete at the Rio 2016 Summer Games, she has put the indoor track season on hold for an opportunity to compete in the bobsled.

The decision to compete in the event has displayed a remarkable display of character that shows a tremendous inner strength and determination on the part of Jones. The world-class athlete may have the rare opportunity to compete in the Summer and Winter Games (reminiscent of female sporting legends such as Cindy Klassen and Clara Hughes). Her involvement in the bobsled competition has also helped grown more interest in the sport.

Todd Hays, the US women’s bobsled coach, was the architect behind this unique concept. It was his decision to invite Jones, Tianna Madison, part of the 4 x 100 meter relay team at London, and Hyleas Fountain to the bobsled push championships.

Image by Associated Press

Image by Associated Press

Believing that it would help raise morale among bobsledders, Hays also had the foresight to believe that track athletes had the necessary speed and strength to push the sleds. Other celebrated athletes in the mix included Emily Azevedo, Katie Eberling and Cherrelle Garrett.

As a world class athlete, Jones embodies the spirit of dedication, discipline and the drive to be the world’s finest competitor. While bobsled should be a pleasant distraction from track that helps to provide Jones with new goals, along with the rejuvenation of her athletic spirit, there are the cynics who questioned this decision.

For those who doubted Jones ability to compete in the bobsled, she made her mark at a competition in St. Moritz, Switzerland. As part the US team that competed in a combined bobsled and skeleton event, she contributed to a gold medal victory.

Serving as the brakewoman for Elana Meyers in the women’s bobsled portion, the team registered the third-best time of the day in the event. It was a tremendous milestone for Jones as it complements the world titles she grabbed in 2008 and 2010 in the indoor 60-meter hurdles.

Despite such success, Jones has had the added distraction of continuously being under a microscope. Sadly, there will always be cynics and haters and it is an unfair yet obligatory aspect of being a world famous athlete. The opportunity to compete at Sochi should mark a remarkable effort in US women’s sporting history, yet Jones’ celebrity status occasionally makes her an unfair target.

Allegations of having been involved in an altercation with the stepdaughter of U.S. bobsled legend Tony Carlino were harsh. The incident was believed to have taken place at Lake Placid, in advance of the National Bobsled Push Championships in Calgary. While eyewitnesses confirmed that Carlino was “visibly intoxicated” and “verbally confronted” Jones, there were some who tried to put Jones in the wrong by stating the incident was covered up.

TAO/WIREIMAGE FOR BUDWEISER

TAO/WIREIMAGE FOR BUDWEISER

A more pleasant event also made national news for Jones. With Jones being one of the most popular athletes on social media, her date with Georgia college student Bubby Lyles made national news. She had agreed to the date on one unique condition; if Lyles got obtain over 150,000 retweets, he would earn his date. Surprisingly, it only took him two weeks to hit the magical mark.

As a side note, there is another pleasant fact about Jones’ sojourn for gold at Sochi. The Topps trading card company (famous for their baseball cards) has produced sports cards of the US Olympic Team. The first set was released to commemorate the US team that competed at the 2012 London Games. In following the success of that release, a new set recognizing the US team competing at Sochi 2014 is scheduled to be released in November 2013. The exciting fact is that Jones is the only athlete to have been featured on a trading card in both sets.

Trading card from the 2012 Topps trading card set recognizing athletes from the Summer Games

Trading card from the 2012 Topps trading card set recognizing athletes from the Summer Games

Heading into Sochi, she represents a unique underdog story as Olympic gold has eluded her storied career. While the Games always brings about strong feelings of national pride, Jones deserves support and not criticism. Regardless of the outcome in Sochi, Jones has shown that she is an admirable, courageous, strong woman who deserves to be considered as a role model. In the hearts and minds of her loyal fans, she will always be a champion.

The Maria Sharapova of women’s hockey

While professional women’s hockey has never marketed the sex appeal of any of its athletes, it is an area that may be forced to acknowledge quickly. 2012 CWHL Draft prospect, Russian national team member, and part time model Zoya Polunina may quickly become the Maria Sharapova of women’s ice hockey.

While it is unfair to single out any one player, Polunina has a modeling background (something that Cassie Campbell, one of the first popular women’s hockey players of the modern era, also had), and male fans are quick to identify the most attractive athletes. Based on the influence of the internet and the sites that are dedicating to featuring the sexiest athletes (male and female) in sports, it is merely a question of time before Polunina is recognized as one of the most attractive ice hockey players in the world. For many male fans, they would state that she definitely follows in the footsteps of fellow Russian athletes Anna Kournikova and Maria Sharapova.

Even in the 1920s, sex appeal played a role in women’s ice hockey. An annual ice hockey tournament in Western Canada in which teams competed to win the Alpine Cup had one of its players win a local beauty contest prior to the tournament.

There have been many amateur women’s hockey groups that have used calendars and sex appeal to gain attention for fund raising efforts. A group of ladies in Jackson Hole, Wyoming (home to some of the greatest winter athletes in North America) have done a calendar which featured nudity. The Ice-o-topes in Vancouver have done a calendar in which the players were in bra and panties while on the ice to help raise funds for charity.

In the budding history of professional women’s ice hockey in North America, there has never been any publicized disruption in the locker rooms of its franchises based on ego and/or popularity. While men’s sports belong to thirty team leagues where one player can easily be shipped elsewhere, women’s ice hockey tends to be a close knit community of very few teams. The moment one team is poisoned over a player’s ego; working relationships among players may be fractured beyond repair.

Eventually, the time will come when an attractive player will manipulate fans and media to increase her popularity; while promoting herself to such a degree that will be beyond anyone’s control. The issue is how an organization would handle it.

A harsh reality in women’s sports is that sex sells with male fans. Athletes such as Danica Patrick, Lindsay Vonn, Lolo Jones, Paula Creamer, Sue Bird, and Hope Solo captured the hearts and minds of male fans with more than their talents. While the astute male sports fan would be quick to acknowledge the hard work and dedication that these athletes have undergone to be the best in their sport, the sex appeal of a female athlete has been a key factor in determining if the more average fan will retain interest.

There is no question that the realm of male sports has had their own athletes create an impact on popular culture (while possibly being labeled as sex symbols). Athletes such as Derek Jeter, Tim Tebow and David Beckham have become icons for their athletic skill, fashion sense, good looks, and overall likeability with fans and media alike. The first star in the CWHL that has truly gained similar status is Tessa Bonhomme.

Although looks may definitely help in attracting fans, talent and character are what will keep the real fans. Tessa Bonhomme has handled her growing popularity and girl next door image with grace and dignity. While more male hockey fans will identify Tessa Bonhomme with Battle of the Blades than her time with Ohio State, the class that she exudes results in popularity which appeals to fans of both sexes, and all age groups. An example for elite athletes to follow.