Olympic track and field trials results: 41-year-old Lolo Jones is back in the 100 hurdles

EUGENE, Ore. — Lolo Jones spent the past 20 years leaping over hurdles and downhill at head-bobbing speeds, competing with the world's best athletes on land and ice. She had never been more scared than she was on Friday evening at Hayward Field, when, at age 41, she approached the start line for the 100-meter hurdles at the United States Olympic trials.

A few hours earlier he hadn't known if his torn hamstring would let him make it to the blocks. Now he wasn't sure it would let him make it to the finish line.

So, later, when she finished the race, she was asked how she cleared the 10 hurdles on Friday? Was it just willpower? Adrenaline?

“Toradol,” Jones said. “The official sponsor of 41-year-olds.”

A familiar and surprising competitor emerged at the U.S. trials on Friday. Jones made her first trials 20 years ago in Sacramento, competing alongside Gail Devers, who made her first Olympics in 1988. “I’m the same age,” Jones said. She has competed in two Summer Olympics and one Winter Olympics, coming close to winning gold in the 100 hurdles at the 2008 Olympics but tripped a hurdle while leading late in the race.

Despite never winning an Olympic medal, Jones made herself one of the most notable Olympians of the past two decades. She leveraged her talent, looks, early understanding of social media, and novelty of blending winter and summer sports into an influencer role to rise to fame.

And Jones is still here. In the last Olympic cycle, Jones said she felt “pushed out” by U.S. bobsled officials because of her age. She wanted to continue competing, so Jones returned to the hurdles. At a track meet in Gainesville, Florida, in April, Jones ran the 100 hurdles in 13.11 seconds, well below the qualifying standard of 13.25 seconds for the trials.

Jones' time suggested the trials would be a showcase and nothing more. But she wanted to come anyway, to give hope to young athletes who might feel disappointed if they didn't make it to the Olympics.

“I hope I can show them that you can still qualify for the Olympic trials at 40,” Jones said. “And I hope that after me, somebody else is good enough to play at 40. Sports science is getting better. Tom Brady didn’t retire until he was 45. I hope these kids look at me and say, ‘You know what? My world isn’t going to end if I don’t make this Olympic team.’ Longevity.”

However, Jones suffered a setback on the way to the trials. She suffered a Grade 2 hamstring tear six weeks ago. “I just got injured,” Jones said. “And it's not just old age. It's an injury that happens to me all the time as a hurdle racer.”

Jones couldn't train on the track. She tried hurdles for the first time since the injury last Saturday, when she jumped six hurdles and twisted her hamstring, another setback. She waited until Thursday to try again. She managed to jump one hurdle and cried out in pain.

When she woke up Friday, she wasn't sure if she would be able to compete. She called two of her old bobsled teammates. “I thought, 'If you gave me the choice of crashing on the scariest bobsled track right now or running in an Olympic trial race, I would choose crashing in a bobsled at 90 miles per hour,'” Jones said. “I was so terrified on that start line. I had no idea if I was going to blow out my hamstring or not.”

Jones still wanted to run. She wanted to prove she could run, and she had the modern medicine of painkiller injections. When Jones's name was announced and she sat down on her block, Hayward Field roared.

“I'm so grateful to everyone who cheered me on,” Jones said. “It's been so long that I felt people had forgotten. It means a lot to me to have people remember my name or shout it out. Because I was so scared on that start line. I was crying this morning because I thought I was going to have to drop out of the race. For me, to get on that start line and get over all 10 obstacles was a huge victory.”

Jones finished the race in 14.86 seconds, which was the difference between her and the second-last place finisher in her heat. “I don't want people to think that this is all you can do at 40,” Jones said. “Before the injury, I was trying to run 12-second pace.”

Jones may run again, if her hamstring problem allows. Because of several scratches and an expanded qualifying system for the opening round, all 27 hurdlers advanced. Tokyo Olympic silver medalist Nia Ali decided on an energy-conserving strategy with a bizarre aesthetic: She burst out of the blocks and crossed the hurdles slowly to finish the race in 20.38 seconds.

Jones sees her career as a series of setbacks she faced and overcame. Missing out on the Olympic team in 2004 led to her success in 2008; hitting a hurdle in 2008 inspired her to finish fourth in 2012 before suffering an injury; not winning a medal inspired her to switch to bobsled and become a unique double Olympian.

“If you have a setback, if you have a loss, if something happens to you that tries to break you, use that as motivation,” Jones said. “That’s why I’m an obstacle runner — I like to overcome everything.

“I'm still in this fight. You guys are acting like I haven't got a semifinal. But I got a semifinal. I know 14 seconds wasn't that great, but we're in it. When I wake up, if I don't need my stick, we'll go.”

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