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Monday, Dec 09, 2019

Bracing up for the ‘ultimate’ hurdle

Lolo Jones of the US has weathered the worst storm in her life and now nothing can stop her from realising a dream of winning an Olympic gold the 100m hurdles, reports Indraneel Das.

india Updated: Aug 15, 2008 00:17 IST
Indraneel Das
Indraneel Das
Hindustan Times
Hindustantimes
         

Sleeping in basements, changing schools and running away from landlords were part of childhood. Her only ambition during those trying times was to complete college and help her mother who was doing “two to three jobs” at a time.

Lolo Jones of the US has weathered the worst storm in her life and now nothing can stop her from realising a dream she has dreamt the moment she tied her laces for her first race as a nine-year-old. An Olympic gold is what she has been persevering for and this is what she aims at here in the 100m hurdles.

Call it quirk of fate or call it a paradox of life, Jones who effortlessly glides over hurdles - both in life and in sport - failed to qualify for the 2004 Games after stumbling on one. A vanquished dream and a tormented soul forced her to rethink her athletics career. “There were times when I thought about quitting sport and start working. I have an economics degree and I thought why not use it,” she said on Thursday. “I was just out of college and I had no contract. It is very difficult to pursue your dream without adequate financial backup.”

Now that she has qualified, at the US trials in a wind-assisted 12.29s, she doesn't want to squander her chance. “I know I will have a tough challenge from Jamaica’s Bridgette Foster-Hylton and Susanna (Kuller),” said the hurdler, who will be racing a horse just after the Olympics. If Ched Johnson can do it why can’t she? “I have to race the horse so that I can get my family here,” said the 26-year-old from Iowa.

From ghettos to riches, the ride has never been easy. “I had seen my mother work two jobs as a child and I always wanted to help her get out of. I was determined I can do it. My brothers never completed education and I was determined to complete college,” said Jones. “Then I started running. I was focused on school as well.”

As she gets ready to step on the track with the best timing in the world this year, Jones would be hoping for another change in life.

No giving a quarter-mile

Sanya Richards has an Olympic gold. She has broken America’s 20-year-old record in 400m clocking 48.70. She loves to wear flashy outfits like Jackie Joyner-Kersie. Such has been her performance in 2006 that even the International Amateur Athletics Federation thought of changing the time of 200m and 400m at the Olympics to allow her to take a crack at both the gold.

But destiny had other plans. She was afflicted by a rare Behçet disease — where the immune system becomes overactive — in March, 2007. So severe was the infection that sometimes she could not even speak with ulcers in her mouth and couldn't squat with lesions all over her body.

“It was so painful that I couldn’t speak. I had to write down on sheets of papers to converse with my family,” said Richards recollecting those harrowing moments. Fatigue and pain almost shattered her. “It all started with flu-symptoms and doctors initially gave me antibiotics that’s used to cure flu, but to no avail,” said the Jamaican-born athlete.

“I ran from doctor to doctor without much luck. Finally after days of pain I found a doctor who diagnosed and finally got the right medication.”

“I trusted my body and gradually I got into the mould,” she said. “It took a lot of pain — physically and mentally.”

Richards will be running the 400m and hoping for victory. “I have been preparing for this moment for the last four years,” she said. “I would like to triumph.”