Olympic Notebook

Hurdler Jones: Criticism ‘crazy’

Associated Press / August 9, 2012
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With her voice choking and eyes welling with tears, US hurdler Lolo Jones took issue with what she called ‘‘heartbreaking’’ criticism a day after she just missed winning a 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.

‘‘They just ripped me to shreds, and I just thought that that was crazy,’’ Jones said.

She finished fourth in the 100-meter hurdles Tuesday, 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.

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 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 she defended her record and her dedication to her sport.

‘‘I work six days a week every day for four years for a 12-second race, and the fact that they just tore me apart, it was just heartbreaking,’’ Jones said.

The 30-year-old Jones said she has no plans to retire and would like to still be hurdling at the Rio Games in 2016.

‘‘Last night, Gail Devers called me and said she was . . . 37 when she got her last medal,’’ Jones said of the two-time Olympic 100-meter champion.

Racewalker hid EPO

The 2008 Olympic racewalk champion who was expelled from the London Games for doping broke down in tears while recounting how he hid EPO, a banned substance, in the home he was sharing with star figure skater Carolina Kost­­­ner. ‘‘I made a huge error,’’ Alex Schwazer said. ‘‘And I can only repeat, I'm sorry.’’

Schwazer said he flew alone to Turkey in September with 1,500 euros (now $1,850) to buy the blood booster at a pharmacy. He said he disguised it in a box of vitamins in a refrigerator at Kostner’s home in Germany, where he was staying in July.

Seeking asylum?

Seven Cameroon athletes who left the Olympic village in the dead of night may be seeking new homes and better sports opportunities elsewhere. The Olympians have valid UK visas that would allow them to stay in Britain for six months, said press attaché Emmanuel Tataw.

‘‘Most of the time they don’t come back,’’ he said.

Cameroon sent 37 athletes to the London Games. The missing athletes include five boxers, a swimmer and a soccer player, all of whom had completed their events.

Underwater camera?

Swimming officials are considering the introduction of underwater video for judging following the controversy over an alleged illegal ‘‘dolphin’’ kick by South Africa’s Cameron van derBurgh in his Olympic 100-meter breaststroke gold medal win last week.

Olympic rules allow one dolphin kick at the start of a 100-meter breaststroke race.

Underwater footage of van der Burgh’s start revealed him doing more than the one — some reports said he did three — dolphin kicks. He won in a world record of 48.46 seconds.

‘‘Judges can only judge what they see,’’ said Cornel Marculescu, executive director of governing body FINA.

Early challenge

US vs. Australia for women’s basketball supremacy.

That’s the way it’s supposed to be. That’s been the norm at the last three Olympics — 2000, 2004 then again in 2008.

Not this year.

The Americans won’t face their biggest challenger in the gold-medal game.

Instead, they'll meet a round earlier when the top-ranked teams in the world square off Thursday in the semifinals of the Olympics.

No injuries in fire

A gas barbecue caught fire and exploded at New Zealand’s Olympic hospitality center, forcing the evacuation of some 300 people. Firefighters said no one was injured during the fire outside Kiwi House in the King’s Cross district of central London. Pictures posted on social media sites showed the BBQ site, with wood walls and a canopy, on fire. London Fire Station Manager Richard Welch said witnesses described two cylinders attached to the barbeque catching fire and exploding before firefighters arrived.

Crash course

The harrowing BMX cycling course adjacent to the London Velodrome has already caused two hard crashes — and the riders were on the course all by themselves. Brooke Crain of the US and Edzus Treimanis of Latvia crashed at the same point as they entered the final straightaway during their seeding runs. Crain clipped her rear wheel on a bump and then went over her handle bars, smashing her chest into the next hill. She managed to climb back on the bike and finish. Treimanis did the same thing moments later, only his helmet hit the gravel hill first. He appeared woozy and did not get back on his bike. If they are able to continue, both riders will be given the final qualifying position . . . Shortly after winning her second Olympic medal in two days, Carmelita Jeter was defending her relationship with an agent who was suspended as part of the BALCO investigation. Jeter said she considers Mark Block “a close friend’’ during a news conference after she won the 200-meter bronze. Jeter also won silver in the 100 meters. In March 2011, Block was suspended for 10 years by an anti-doping arbitration panel after it found he trafficked in drugs supplied by Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative and gave them to his wife, sprinter Zhanna Block.

Bolt the best?

Former US track star Marion Jones believes Usain Bolt is on his way to becoming the greatest track and field athlete the world has ever seen. Jones said as long as Bolt’s career isn’t derailed by injury, ‘‘he certainly would be considered the greatest track and field athlete ever.’’ Jones points out that Bolt is only 25 and still can accomplish more, even after joining American Carl Lewis as the only two-time winners of the Olympic 100-meter dash. Jones says she thinks Bolt will probably win the 200 Thursday night and may set a world record. In 2000, Jones became the first woman to win five medals at an Olympics. Her participation was stripped after she acknowledged using performance-enhancing drugs . . . A swarm of bugs descended on Olympic Stadium, causing a nuisance for fans, stadium workers and maybe even athletes.

‘‘Crews have now brought the blaze under control and are cooling a further two gas cylinders down to make them safe,’’ Welch said. Kiwi House is one of many special Olympic venues scattered across London that provide national focal points for fans to watch the London Games and sample the food and culture of particular nations.

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