Media criticism upsets Lolo Jones

LONDON -- With her voice choking and eyes welling with tears, U.S. hurdler Lolo Jones took issue with what she called "heartbreaking" criticism a day after she barely missed winning an Olympic medal.

Jones appeared on NBC's "Today" on Wednesday and was asked about a recent story in The New York Times that said her stardom had more to do with marketing than her accomplishments on the track.

"I think it was crazy just because it was two days before I competed, and then the fact that it was from a U.S. media (outlet)," Jones said. "They should be supporting our U.S. Olympic athletes, and instead they just ripped me to shreds. I thought that was crazy because I work six days a week, every day, for four years for a 12-second race."

The Times article said Jones has "received far greater publicity than any other American track and field athlete competing in the London Games. This was based not on achievement but on her exotic beauty and on a sad and cynical marketing campaign."

Jones, who did not win a medal in Tuesday's 100-meter hurdles final, fought back tears as she addressed the critical article.

"The fact that they just tore me apart, it was heartbreaking," she said. "They didn't even do their research -- calling me the Anna Kournikova of track. I have the American record. I am the American-record holder indoors, I have two world indoor titles.

"Just because I don't boast about these things, I don't think I should be ripped apart by media. I laid it out there, I fought hard for my country. I think it's a shame that I have to deal with so much backlash when I'm already so brokenhearted as it is."

Jones finished fourth in the final, 0.10 seconds behind bronze medalist Kellie Wells. At Beijing four years ago, Jones was leading the final when she hit the ninth of 10 hurdles and wound up seventh.

"I was crushed afterwards," Jones said. "I know I had the best race of my season -- not the best race of my life. But I had the best race of my year, so I just try to take a look at that. It doesn't take away from the pain that I was so close to, once again, having a medal and not getting it."

Jones is backed by big-name sponsors and has appeared on magazine covers, including a recent issue of Time. Her charisma and childhood narrative -- her family once lived in a church basement in Iowa -- only add to her story.

She has no Olympic or world outdoor championship medals, but in her interview Wednesday she defended her record and her dedication to her sport.

"Putting your heart out there, obviously it opens you up to a lot of negativity," she said. "But at the same time, if I can just reach somebody out there. Maybe there's a little girl out there who doesn't think she can be an Olympic athlete, and she sees all the things I've struggled through to get here.

"I wasn't even supposed to make the Olympic team. The U.S. Olympic team -- they counted me out. I made the team. Then they (said), 'She's not even gonna make the final.' I made the final. I went from eighth place to fourth place. I just hope my story gives somebody hope. I didn't walk away with the medal or run away with the medal, but I think there's lessons to be learned when you win and there's lessons to be learned when you lose."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.