From Frugivore — The first week of the London Olympic Games is in the books, and from Usain Bolt to Sanya Richards-Ross, the stars of track and field have lived up to their billing. Now as we enter into the second week on the track, arguably the Games’ most recognizably contentious star takes the stage. That star is 100-meter hurdler Lolo Jones, who finds herself in a peculiar position: a beautiful and talented track athlete who is the American face of Olympic track and field without holding any hardware to justify her earning millions in endorsements.
And that is why, today, The New York Times is praying and praying for Lolo’s downfall.
In a Sunday sports piece, Jerè Longman asks if Lolo is worthy of all the magazine covers, commercials, and TV specials — none of which were more infamous than her HBO feature where she proclaimed that she’s a long-suffering virgin who needs a Christian squire to slide on her glass slipper and unlock her chastity belt.
After asking this question, Longman suggests Lolo is a fraud, as much a media creation as her male Christian counterpart, Tim Tebow, whose marginal-at-best quarterbacking skills but classic Paul Bunyan looks and Evangelical spirit have landed him multi-million dollar endorsements and a back-up gig for the New York Jets.
Longman thinks that Lolo’s “exotic” looks (she’s from that exotic faraway land of Iowa) and story of redemption supersedes her hurdling prowess. Currently, in her specialty, measured in time, Lolo is only 21st in the world but leads every American track athlete in magazine covers. Additionally, Longman points to the fact that posing nude for ESPN The Magazine and Outside magazine, Lolo walks a fine line between her piety and her sexualized image (but , seriously Longman, this is America and sex sells, and again, just last week, Sportscenter resembled a Chippendales male review after Tebow ran though the rain shirtless!).
Janice Forsyth, the director of the International Centre for Olympic Studies at the University of Western Ontario, says Lolo may be just cashing in on a misogynistic sports entertainment landscape that values female athletes for their ability to sell beauty instead of brawn:
“It’s really a sad commentary on the industry Lolo is in,” Forsyth said. “Limited opportunities are there for women to gain a foothold unless they sell themselves as sex kittens or virgins for sale.”
Admittedly, Longman concedes that track and field is a sport that Americans don’t pay complete attention to in between Olympic years — unless one breaks a record, which Lolo has yet to do — thus the race to cash-in is intense for Olympic stars, most of whom can be seen attaching their smiles and reputations to seemingly contradictory sponsors like McDonald’s and Coca-Cola or arguably down right sinister corporations such as DOW, BP, and the myriad of credit card companies.