Tag Archives: track and field

On Dawn Harper & Lolo Jones: How (Not) To Be A Gracious Loser

Dawn Harper won the gold medal in the 100m hurdles at the 2008 Olympics. She won the silver this week in London. Yet in many ways, she lost to her countrywoman Lolo Jones. And it’s become evident that Harper doesn’t know how to be a gracious loser. Harper was the reigning Olympic champ but given the level of media coverage given to Lolo Jones, many incorrectly thought Jones had a better chance of medaling than Harper did.

The Harper/Jones controversy reared its ugly head some time before the Olympics. She gave a television interview where she admitted to being confused about why Jones had more press coverage than she did, given her better stats. Harper has a point. As the reigning Olympic champion, she probably rightfully expected to get more media coverage than her compatriot. Some even pointed to colorism as a potential cause for the disparity in their publicity. Lolo has a compelling backstory of once being homeless, of living apart from her parents in high school so she could keep running, and a high sympathy factor giving her tragic fall in the 2008 Olympics where she was a favorite. But Dawn won her Olympic gold in shoes that she borrowed because she didn’t have a sponsor. Dawn also had a tough upbringing. She’s alluded to it in interviews but implied that she’d rather protect her family’s privacy than use their struggles to gain publicity. A not-so-subtle dig at Lolo, perhaps?

So while Lolo finished seventh to Dawn’s first in Bejing; in terms of public sentiment, Dawn was the loser. Lolo went on to appear in ESPN’s 2009 Body Issue. She had an HBO special earlier this year, where she (in)famously revealed she’s a virgin. She gained endorsements from Oakley and Red Bull. She appeared on the Leno Show and the cover of Time Magazine, and was featured heavily in other media outlets. Dawn Harper, not so much. And Dawn’s still mad about it.

In an interview that surfaced this morning, Harper and 100 m hurdles bronze medalist Kellie Wells seemed to taking shots at Lolo. Ostensibly, this interview should have been about their great performance in London. Admittedly, the interviewer guided them away from that by asking Harper about not getting enough respect. But Harper fell right into the trap. Despite the fact that her PR agent told her not to answer those kinds of questions, she gave quite an animated response alluding to her discontent over the coverage of Jones, ending with a resounding “Boom, just like that!”

[I can’t embed the video but the video is worth watching to see the body language http://www.businessinsider.com/harper-wells-lolo-jones-interview-2012-8]

Dawn is entitled to her anger, resentment and disappointment. But this was not the way to express it. Whatever personal issues she’s facing with Lolo should have been handled privately. Though the hurdles are not a team sport, they still went to London to represent their country together. It wouldn’t have killed her to show a little team spirit this morning rather than engage in petty diatribe about her colleague. Perhaps in the moment she thought she could expose Lolo’s flaws, or even those of the media but really all she did was set up more media interest in Lolo. The title of the piece surrounding her interview isn’t even Dawn Harper says … it’s Two American Hurdlers Ripped Lolo Jones… The reality is that in this narrative, Lolo is the star of the show. Harper and her team could attempt various strategies to change that, but this should not have been one of them.

Life is not always fair. The sad reality for Harper is that in a few months time the average American probably will not remember her name. But it’s likely they’ll remember Lolo.

Can Harper rightfully blame the media for bias and colorism? Yes.

Is she entitled to dislike Lolo? Sure. We have no clue what’s going on behind the scenes.

Should she have handled this interview in this way? Absolutely not. She played right into the media’s hands and helped to promote the very athlete she was trying to deride. Instead of discussing Dawn Harper’s wonderful record and two Olympic medals, the discussion is about how bitter and petty she is.  And for this particular loss, she can blame herself.


On Track with Jamaica

This is my attempt to jump in on the #30in30 blog series started by Erik Parker which I learned about via writer Aliya S King. I’m starting 5 days late, so I’ll have to do some 2-a-days if I want to finish on time with everyone else. Bear with me, I haven’t written anything non-legal in a while. We’ll see how it goes…

I woke up at 5:35 am on Saturday. I just jumped right out of my sleep, without an alarm. This is no small feat for me, given that I am terribly nocturnal and am barely able to wake up with an alarm, much less without. But at 5:35 am the first Jamaican would be on the track for Olympics 2012. Of course I got up.

My love affair/obsession with athletics is longstanding. It’s irrevocably intertwined with my infatuation with all things Jamaican. Given Jamaica’s history of success in the sport, it makes perfect sense. Though it is ironic to me that I would choose sports as the object of my affection when I have never been athletically inclined. I played netball in prep and high schools, but no more than the average Jamaican girl. I have never been a great runner. When my ninth grade class was learning to hurdle, I was one of three students excused from participating because we were so short our teacher didn’t think we could safely clear the hurdle. Thank God; the hurdles were intimidating. 

Yet somehow, I have always been obsessed with athletics. I watch all the competitions; not just Olympics or World Champs. I search for live streams for all the events. I love reading the stats. I follow athletes from high school champs in Jamaica and investigate the backgrounds of NCAA athletes in the US. I really should find a way to get paid for this.

There’s something about seeing our athletes shine on the world stage that just brings so much pride and joy to my heart. It’s hard to verbalize, particularly to anyone who’s not Jamaican. Why do we run around screaming when a Jamaican wins a race? Why do we get so excited just to see one of our athletes on the track?

But maybe they get it too, a little bit. So many news sources have noted that we get the most thunderous applause when we enter stadiums. There’s a little bit of magic in our island, I swear. Or maybe a lot. And everyone knows.

My past few days have been scheduled around the times our athletes would be on the track. Whenever someone invited me somewhere, I had to double-check to ensure I wouldn’t be missing a race. Someone mentioned that I could miss the heats and semi-finals yesterday since only the Women’s 100 m finals were important. No they’re all important! 

You see, it’s not just about the winners. Despite the fact that Jamaica has been the sprint factory  for so long, we never won our first gold medals in the 100m until 2008. Thank you Usain and Shelly-Ann. There many silvers and bronzes, but never the golden prize. Prior to that, our only other sprint golds were Donald Quarrie’s and Veronica Campbell in the 200m, in 1976 & 2004.* Our gold medals in the 400m flat and hurdles were few and far between. Yet the pride and admiration we feel about our athletes is so immense.

Many have expressed in recent conversations that we’ve become spoiled by the success. Two-time 100 m winner Shelly-Ann Fraser said she wouldn’t call us greedy, but we do expect a lot from them. I cannot lie. I wish we could win everything. Give us all the medals! The beautiful simplicity of a good 100m race is that it demonstrates the resilience and winning power of our people in a mere 10 seconds. The fighting spirit that Jamaicans have that inspires me. It’s readily apparent in track but look closer, and you’ll see it in other aspects of our lives too.

And how cool is it that we had an equestrian compete this year? Can you imagine traveling all the way from Kingston to London with your horse in tow?! 

I haven’t blogged in a while but just seeing our talented athletes in their black,green and gold made me want to do any- and everything; sing, dance, scream, write – you name it. Maybe shed a tear, or ten. It will give me such pleasure to watch them raise our flag and play our national anthem in London today, 50 years to the date after the British flag was lowered in Jamaica for the last time before Independence.

Thankfully, Jamaica won’t be back on the screen till around 2pm today so waking up at 5:35 am wasn’t necessary. But I will gladly do it again to see them in action. On your marks, get set… WIN

* I’m excluding 400m from the sprints. Though I was taught it is a sprint in Phys Ed, all my friends who are athletes refer to it as a middle-distance race. Hence the exclusion of Arthur Wint and Herb McKenley’s 400m golds in 1948 and 1952.