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Lolo Jones pictured the 2020 Olympics as her emotional farewell.
Now, she is training with a reimagined dream that will send her to Beijing instead of Tokyo, pushing a bobsled instead of clearing hurdles.
“I really thought I was retired as an athlete… [I thought] ‘I can’t hold on for another four years,’” she recalled thinking when it was widely believed the 2020 games would be cancelled indefinitely.
When the COVID-19 pandemic pushed back the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to this summer, it left Jones with an impossible choice between her two Olympic sports — track and field and the bobsled. The year-long delay for the Games, which begin on Friday, would not allow her time to properly train to qualify for both sports.
She told The Post that passing on track and field left her feeling “robbed” of finishing her career in 100 meter hurdles — her signature race.
“The Summer Olympics are in July and to qualify for the USA Bobsled Team that [also] happens in July... I had to decide what sport I would end my career in,” said Jones, while discussing her new memoir, “Over It.”
Jones was training for the 2020 Olympics when the lockdown and subsequent quarantine halted her workouts and preparation. By the time athletes were notified about the postponement, Jones, being an older athlete, knew she had just one Olympic run left “emotionally and physically.”
After a number of conversations with friends and family, Jones decided to vie for a spot on the U.S. Bobsledding team at the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing. She said her body had transformed more into bobsled shape at that point in her decision process.
“The reality is, the pandemic retired some of my friends. It was a tough time for everybody. I mean I’m 38, I’m not a young kid. I say this all the time, ‘athletes age in dog years.’ One year is like seven years for us,” Jones, who turns 39 in August, explained.
Track and field requires Jones to be about 135 pounds. She has to be around 167 pounds to compete in bobsled.
When she shifted her focus to bobsled, Jones was an alternate. By February, she was crowed a world bobsled champion alongside Kaillie Humphries.
“I never wanted to go back to bobsled after my push for the 2018 Olympics,” Jones said of when she was the last athlete cut from the 2018 team selection.
“I walked back in those doors and I felt like I was returning into a den of fire.”
In 2012, Jones managed to still make the Summer Olympics despite undergoing spinal surgery. She placed third in the 100 meter hurdles at the U.S. Olympic trials.
Two years later, she competed in bobsled at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, where she placed in eleventh — becoming one of few U.S. athletes to ever compete in both summer and winter Olympic games.
If she punches a ticket to the Winter Olympics in Beijing, Jones will relentlessly pursue winning her first Olympic medal — 13 years after she infamously lost the gold at the 2008 Summer Games, which also took place in Beijing. She relives the “biggest failure of my career” in her newly released memoir.
“I have not competed in China since [the 2008 Summer Games],” Jones said with a slight laugh, noting the significance of returning to “where my Olympic career began.”
Jones was competing in the 100m hurdle finals in ’08, and was seconds away from winning the gold medal when she clipped the second to last hurdle and dropped to seventh. She fell to the ground, pounding the track while fighting back tears.
“There’s just something about going back to beginning where my first Olympics was and having the opportunity to redeem myself. Wouldn’t it be crazy [if I won a medal] and this [Winter Games] was the reason all these years?,” Jones imagined, describing her hopeful return to Beijing as a “kind of a full circle moment.”
“It would be really cool now if the inspiration was to wait 13 years, go back to the same place you messed up at and redeem yourself. That would be almost like a Disney movie,” she said before sharing one of her “favorite” quotes:
“‘Never tease an old dog, because they might have just one more bite left.’
“I think it would be crazy for me to go to the [Winter] Olympics and get a medal at damn near 40, and get that accomplishment and I couldn’t even do that in my prime. I hope it’s an inspiration to others to keep pushing, and never give up.”
While she’s grateful she had bobsled to lean on when track and field was no longer an option, Jones isn’t at peace with the fact that her last Olympic run won’t be in hurdling.
“If I’m being honest with you, no,” she said, “Because it’s something I’ve put so many years into.”
While Jones dismissed the idea of participating in the Paris Summer Olympics in 2024, she may not be done with her first sporting love.
“I’ve thought about this though, just to give me some sort of peace. I thought, the Winter Olympics are in February. What if I take a few months and then maybe go back and run some races? I’ll already be in Winter Olympics shape,” Jones said.
“I’ll shed some pounds real quick and run some races with no pressure because there is no Olympics. Just run some races and end my career in track, but that also depends on what happens in Beijing.”
If Jones makes the U.S. bobsledding team to compete at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing and wins her first Olympics medal, she could pull off one of the greatest sports redemption stories ever.
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